Wednesday, October 30, 2013

State O'Maine

Behind Dunkin Donuts in Machias. Hunter's Moon.
View from the walking trails on the Machias river.

I am in love with my state. I always have been. During the past two months, I have visited many parts of central and northern Maine for the first time. There is one specific view that catches me off guard every time. While driving through Patten there is a spot where you can stop and take in miles of open fields, rolling hills with changing maples and oaks, dark outlines of evergreen trees, and Mount Katahdin in the distance, ALL in the same picture. It takes my breath away.

One day I will stop and take a picture of this gorgeous view. I haven't yet because I'm usually in such a desperate state trying to keep the boys calm during the 5 1/2 hour drive. I also tend to get very discouraged by these landscapes...I see them as being too big and too beautiful to try to capture them in one shot. It would never do it justice.

Where the sights of northern Maine are gorgeous, I am quite partial to downeast Maine.
It has always been my home, and I'm proud to be a "downeastah". Happy to say that I've always appreciated what it has to offer...the ocean, the lakes, the woods, the blueberries, the people. Now that I have moved away from it....going back takes me to a tourist state of mind. Places that I've always known to be beautiful, now pop out at me like never before.

Roque Bluffs

View of the hunter's moon in Machias, early morning.

Fall blueberry fields in Northfield


I am a sucker for dew drops on anything!

View from Washington Bald Mountain, Wesley

View of third Machias lake from Washington Bald Mountain, Wesley

Sunrise on Machias river from the view at Inn at Schoppee Farm
I just started reading Louise Dickinson Rich's State O'Maine. It isn't very often that I get excited about a book by it's introduction, but this one did just that! The first page of the book made me smile...she captures being a Mainer, perfectly.
To Mainiacs, Maine is not merely a place. It is a spiritual home and shelter as perfectly fitting and comfortable and natural as its shell is to a snail; which, like snails, they carry with them wherever they may go. To them, Maine is a state of mind and a way of life inseparable from the geography and topography of the area and from their own bones and blood and thoughts and dreams.
  I feel that this is so true. Since I was 13, every summer has been spent working at Helen's in Machias. I grew up being asked tourist questions like,

"What on earth do you do for fun around here?"
"What do you mean the nearest Walmart is one hour away?"
"Are you serious? You have to drive 2 hours to go shopping at a mall?"

Unfortunately, for the tourists who ask me these questions, just like the snail that Louise Dickinson Rich describes...carrying the shell wherever we go...I get very defensive. I feel the need to protect my home. I get angry when people can't appreciate the simplicity of things. First of all....I hate shopping. I loathe Walmart. Every time I enter the place I end up wanting to hurt myself 20 minutes in. I hate it simply because my brain cannot handle such overload. Hannaford in Machias is my place to shop. I love the simplicity of being able to walk into a store and knowing exactly where to find what I need. I like knowing the names of the employees. Are the prices higher than Walmart? Some of them, sure. But I know that when I walk in a Walmart....I'm going to purchase more than what's on my list...just because my brain loses all control and sensory overload destroys all rationale.

It is impossible to convey a frame of mind, to explain why I love my state, and why I love Machias to someone who has already decided to hate it and pity me for being stuck in such a desolate hole. Of course not every tourist asks these questions with the same horrified look on their face. There are plenty of tourists who return every summer to soak up everything good our area has to offer. It is their opportunity to unwind, to get away from it all, and to recharge. Come early September, they're shipping out to carry on their busy city lives.

Simply stated, ours is a different way of life. It is not for everyone, that is for sure. But for me, it's the way life should be! :)


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From Forest to Table

There were so many things that fell into place when we were getting ready to move to Clayton Lake. When Evan's name was drawn for the 2013 Maine Moose Lottery, we were ecstatic. When we checked the zone and saw that he would be hunting out of Clayton Lake, it was almost laughable. Call it luck? He has ridiculous luck. A little story about his luck....our first week here in Clayton Lake we went fishing at Bissonnette bridge. His line ended up breaking and he lost his good lure. A week later we went back...and he CAUGHT the line he had lost and saved the lure. Only Evan. 
Exciting moment for our little family! He was 712 lb 42 1/4 inch spread

I hope both of my boys will  get lucky enough to have the opportunity to shoot their own someday!

Evan and his brother Michael. He came in to help call in the moose.
 Now is the part where I come in. I have been cooking Evan's wild game for years. He is a natural born killer. Seriously, through and through. Before he became a game warden...his fall seasons were spent AWAY. So it was a pretty easy transition into warden life, he is still going to be gone all fall seasons. He'll just be getting paid now!
That basically says it all. I grew up in a hunting friendly family. But nothing could prepare me for this man's obsession. I always had a major crush on Davy Crockett so really, it all worked out perfectly!!!
This might sound so so silly...but there is nothing I love more than seeing the look on my husband's face when I have taken an animal that he has killed and turned it into an awesome meal. There's something so awesome about knowing that the meat you're about to eat came from a gorgeous animal who lived just down the road. The animal lived a natural life, living off the land with no human intervention. When it was killed, it was in it's own habitat. It felt no fear or panic while walking up a ramp at a slaughterhouse awaiting the stun gun. Evan met the butcher face to face. The meat was put in one freezer before it was put in ours. It wasn't transported to a store and put on a shelf. It is the purest way to consume an animal. The only thing shameful about the situation was how the bull looked on the back of the truck riding out to meet the butchers. He should've had a glorious ride fit for a king on his drive out the Reality road. But instead.....he got this.

We didn't have a trailer so things got a little crammed. Baha
We never ate a lot of wild game in my house growing up. I still have a lot of learning left to do, but I've been able to figure out what I can do with it to mask whatever game flavor is left. Some people may enjoy that wild flavor, but I do not. This is the first moose we have ever had and in my opinon, it certainly has the most mild game flavor when compared with bear and deer. Very exciting. :)
For our first meal with the moose meat, I decided to make a stir fry. I got the recipe for the marinade and the sauce here:
I asked Evan to take some meat out of the freezer for stir fry. He grabbed the tenderloin that the butcher cut off for him the day after he killed the moose....and he wrapped it up in saran wrap himself. Aaaaaand I came out to the kitchen to a bloody countertop. So lovely.

Snow peas, onions, peppers, carrots, broccoli, water chesnuts, fresno pepper, and grated ginger. Helpful tip that I learned last year....FREEZE YOUR GINGER!!! When you're ready to use it...you can just take it out, peel it, and grate it!!! It's SO much easier than having to deal with all the veiny stringy parts when it isn't frozen.

Finished product!!! It was delish.

Now, Evan is a complete and total leftover snob. He simply will not eat them. It's so annoying. I've had to learn how to be so careful here in the woods, to figure out how to not waste anything. We don't have the option to go to the store to buy an extra ingredient that has been forgotten...we really have to use everything. So the day after I made the stir fry...I made egg rolls out of the mixture.

I chopped everything up from the stir fry and added green cabbage, raw shredded carrot, rice noodles and a little extra ginger. Warmed it all up in a frying pan and filled the egg roll wrappers. Then it was on to the dutch oven to fry! They passed the Evan taste test, and I was able to freeze them so he can take them out and heat at 300 whenever he wants a snack. He might be spoiled rotten. 



Love this guy!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Canada Lynx

This post doesn't really need anything other than the pictures. They are enough. What an absolutely beautiful animal. I am insanely jealous that Evan was able to snap a couple of pictures of this mystical creature. He was able to get the lynx's attention by making squeaking sounds. He stopped, turned around, and sat. What I would give to be able to take some pictures with my camera. These pictures were taken with his work camera pressed up against his binoculars. They still came out gorgeous. For now I will cross my fingers and hope that I'll get my turn someday.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Time to "Rember"

 This camp has been in my family since 1960, and before this one was constructed, there was another one a couple miles down the road that was built in 1947. The area has served it's purpose for decades. Lots of memories. I remember one Halloween my great grandmother decorated the road with torn up ghost sheets. As you can see by the pictures, it does have a little bit of a spooky feel.

Hunting camp in my family is mostly used by the men. It's understood that women don't go to stay to interrupt the man time. Every fall we lose them for days at a time to their playground, and they return refreshed with a new batch of memories. Some are said out loud and others are only whispered and giggled about. Sunday is a safe day to pack up the kids and a lunch to take in to the menfolk to enjoy a nice family afternoon! But come two o'clock we're usually "heading er' for home".
Awesome day spent with my Dad, Mom, brother, and the boys. <3

The lunch we brought for Dad. Um...yum. Homemade meatball subs. Awesome camp lunch.

Views from the top of Washington Bald Mountain. The lake in the top left is 3rd Machias.
When we found out we were moving to Clayton lake, news spread in our small town and the peppering of questions began. I wish I had a few reactions on tape. They were priceless. People seemed to be quite concerned, and I found myself feeling a need to defend myself....to justify our decision to move there or to explain why I thought I was going to be ok. I always came back to this place in my defense. I would explain that I knew what it was like to spend the night in a real hunting camp with no running water, no indoor toilet, no electricity, miles from the nearest paved road or store, no cell phone service, and a guaranteed sign of mice inside the camp. Really, I think I was trying to convince myself just as much as I was them that I was going to be fine. Was I positive that I would be? Not really. I had no idea how I was going to feel about it. I told Evan almost everyday that
I wanted for nothing more than to love it...the alternative would be just be an inconvenience!
I am so happy to say that I'm loving it. A couple of weeks ago, Jason Aldean's song "Fast" came on Pandora and there's a line in it, "Goodbye gravel road, thanks for the ride" and I started crying!! Evan looked at me and said, "What is wrong???" I think after the last year of spending SO much time apart because of police training and warden training....Clayton lake is the first place in a long time that we've had the chance to be together. I know that when we leave the North Woods, it will be the end of an era for our little family. I don't like to think about it. Funny how my concerns have completely changed from 6 months ago. Now, to survive winter!  

Family <3


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Peace in the Quiet

It was on my 25th birthday that I packed up my whole world to enter a new one.
There isn't really any way to describe the feeling that you're left with after driving 70 miles on a gravel road to reach a destination that is in the middle of nowhere. It isn't really like any other I've ever felt. Panicky, would be a great way to describe it. I know the hunters and recreational fishermen who have made it their vacation destination for years, feel the complete opposite. When you have two boys under the age of 4 in the back seat, and you know that it's not a vacation spot, but a little more of a permanent destination, your thoughts tend to go a little static.

When we arrived at the house, I texted my Mom to tell her we were still alive (we are able to communicate with our iphones because of the wireless...messages are sent through imessage). I looked at my phone a few minutes later and the message had not gone through. The wireless was not working and we were left with no option of contact with the outside world except for the police radio. Soooo my complete detox from society began.

Silence can be a very scary thing when you're used to a LOT of noise, to too much noise. Those first couple of days of "silence" for me were so unsettling. The house was a complete and total disaster...boxes were everywhere, the boys were everywhere, and my husband was busy trying to get organized for his first day of work. I had no family members...or any humans that I knew, close by to come over and watch the boys for an hour so I could get caught up on house work and unpacking. That first week, my thoughts narrowed. I no longer had any concerns with what everyone else was thinking about at home...I didn't know what they were thinking because they were out of reach. Their thoughts were not accessible to me. My two children, my husband, my dog, myself, and our daily routines and needs were what concerned me. Exactly the way it should be, right?

After the first couple of days, the house started looking better and I was able to get the boys used to a new schedule. It took me several days to work up the nerve to go for a walk with the boys without Evan. I grew up playing in the woods. My little brother and I would go out for hours behind our house exploring. I wouldn't say that I'm afraid of being outside alone, but when you're 82 miles from the nearest hospital, your mind tends to run rampant with worst case scenarios. If something were to happen while we were on our walk, I would have to run back to our house to use the police radio or I'd have to run to the logging depot and hope someone was there so I could use the phone. Evan had seen a couple of bear cross the road in the few days we had been there....just a couple of reasons why I needed to work up the nerve to go for a walk!

When we got to the lake we walked down to the end of the dock. Andrew and I sat down and watched Jackson "fish" with his fishing pole. There was no one else around...it was so quiet. The sun was shining and the clouds were moving. I took a deep breath and heard nothing...and felt everything. I had a peace in my heart that I hadn't had in a long time. It was at this time that I really felt a sense of peace with my new home and with myself. The feeling that you get when you take a deep breath and your whole body relaxes when you exhale. I hadn't felt that feeling in a LONG time. The past year had been non stop go go go....my thoughts had not had any time to stop. Not once. I was constantly looking ahead. Looking forward to something that hadn't happened yet and losing little pieces of the present. During that first week it was truly as if my whole being was detoxing. My thoughts narrowed drastically. Everything was scaled back. In that moment at the lake, my thoughts were able to catch up and everything went quiet. Everything slowed down. I've never really thought about the phrase "peace and quiet". I think it takes some serious work and self evaluation to be able to be at peace in the quiet.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Winnah Winnah Partridge Dinnah

 Evan and I started out on this beautiful fall day to search for some birds. We left Meemaw and the boys at home snug in their beds. It's not often that we get a date nowadays and a good chunk of time riding down dirt roads is always nice! This country is so gorgeous. We ended up seeing two cow moose with one calf each trailing behind.
We tried some new roads we hadn't been down yet. Spotted a bird and I took a shot with the 20 gauge but I was too far away and it hopped up in the woods. I was so discouraged that I lowered the gun and started back to the blazer. Evan used a bit of profanity, disgusted with my attitude of defeatedness, and told me to walk toward the alders where the bird disappeared. I walked closer and I was able to see only his head peaking out the other side of a tree. I took the shot and feathers flew. It was a VERY exciting moment. I will admit there were a few tears....I was ecstatic.
 We came back to the house and Evan walked me through the process of skinning and cleaning the bird.
I grabbed onto the partridge feet and lined up my feet on either side of the breast and directly on top of the wings.  
And he told me to pull.
And so I did.....
And there you have it....good ole partridge breast!

So after this excitement had ended....Mom, the boys, and I went for a walk to the airline and back around to the house. We saw four partridge off to the side of the road, and it gave me an itch to go back out. Came home, packed the boys up in the blazer and off we went. Spotted the first one pretty quickly. Fired and feathers flew.

But.....he wouldn't die.

He kept flippin and floppin.

And I got the giggles.

And Evan wasn't around and I had no freaking clue what to do!

Thank goodness I didn't have to do anything. He stopped breathing and I threw him in the bag. I got one more and we headed home.

The view on the way home.

So after the fun, I had to get to work....but really...cooking doesn't usually seem like work to me! I read a little bit on what pairs well with partridge from the Joy of Cooking cookbook and a common theme seemed to be citrus. I immediately thought of an orange chicken recipe I'd found on foodgawker months ago. Evan and I were both nervous about how we'd feel about the flavor/texture of the partridge compared to chicken. We've both tried it before but it had been way overcooked with little to no flavor added. I knew the marinade would be pretty important.
A problem when you're shooting your dinner.....if you don't get a clean shot...the pellets end up buried in the meat. For the record...this wasn't one of my birds...it was Evan's!!! aahaha!
After I cleaned up the breasts, I cut them up into bite size pieces. I had to use 5 partridge breasts. I get easily distracted and I didn't bother to read the recipe for the orange chicken after I got done reading about the citrus marinade in the Joy of Cooking....SO I ended up doubling up on a marinade. You will see that the marinade in the Orange Chicken recipe is heated first and then dumped on the chicken. This one is not....so yours won't look like this but I just liked the picture. :D

I love onions and red peppers paired with this recipe. You could do whatever vegetable you wanted. I think broccoli would be great or even green beans. I just sautéed them lightly and threw them into the sauce at the end.

Bringing the sauce to a boil right before adding the partridge.


It seems like every time I make this for dinner...I regret putting the chicken in the sauce. When the chicken gets deep fried it's nice and crispy on the outside...and when the sauce is added, it takes away some of that crispiness. It's not too bad if you don't let it sit for long.  


AND the finished product. From dirt road to dinner table. Delish.
Find the recipe here: http://www.homeindisarray.com/2012/01/happy-new-year-orange-chicken.html

He is excited about the day he will be able to join us! :)