My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vacation: Asticou Azalea Garden

Vacation Day #4 continued...

After our picnic on the grounds of the Jordan Pond House, we caught another Island Explorer bus and had the driver drop us off at the entrance to Asticou Azalea Garden, just outside of Acadia (here's your Mount Desert Island map!)

Asticou was the name of a Penobscot chief who was summering in the area that's now Northeast Harbor when the French explorer Champlain began reconnoitering the island around 1604. It's believed the name means "Boiling Kettle," according to the Asticou Inn's web site.

We missed the peak of Azalea and Rhododendron blooming season (in late May through June), but no worries - this place was amazing nevertheless! Other plants were in bloom, and even a few Azaleas and Rhododendrons had held onto their blossoms for us. :-)

The garden was designed and built in 1956 by Charles K. Savage (1903 - 1979), whose family owned and operated the Asticou Inn. (Savage also designed and built Thuya Garden two years later, which you'll visit in my next post). Asticou Azalea Garden is modeled on a Japanese stroll garden, and you'll easily recognize the Asian influences. But it was adapted to fit its natural setting and contains native coastal Maine plants too. The combination is really lovely and restful. Here's a blurb from the brochure we picked up...

A meandering circular path leads visitors through a succession of garden rooms that inspire serenity and reflection or bring to focus a particularly lovely vista. The garden's design creates an illusion of space, of lakes and mountains and distant horizons.

So, ready to meander in serene beauty and quiet reflection? Thought you might be. :-)

(click on any photo for a larger view)

Asticou Pond...

The Weeping Hemlock at the center of the photo above
is one of the garden's oldest transplants,
from Beatrix Farrand's estate garden in Bar Harbor.
(You'll see it again in this post in a starring role!)

Asticou Pond and the gentle little stream flowing into it are the centerpieces of Asticou Azalea Garden. Following the meandering path, you often find yourself overlooking the pond from different vantage points, each one providing a new and beautiful perspective.

The Lily Pond, located between Asticou Pond and...

the Sand Garden
Beside the stream, the Sand Garden uses rocks & raked sand
to suggest flowing water and islands.

The garden also contained various statuary in secret nooks.
This one was my favorite.

The azaleas were no longer blooming but this Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) 
was still putting on a beautiful show, with buds as pretty as its flowers!

BW beside the Sargent's Weeping Hemlock
I want one! Under its branches is a wide shady area
that feels like a hidden retreat beneath a big umbrella.
(Bet the wee folk know about it!) :-)

I took this photo standing on the shoreline
of a small peninsula lined with Japanese Iris.
I was visited by a paddling duck who dove as I snapped this!

A view of the peninsula from the other side of Asticou Pond.
The Weeping Hemlock is the large lime green plant
located at about the one o'clock position,
and you can just barely see the irises lining the little shore.
The diving duck has vanished altogether!
Perhaps hiding under the Hemlock for a nap! :-)

The nearby Cranberry Lodge, part of the historic Asticou Inn
that I mentioned at the top of this post.
(I just thought it was a pretty B&B when I photographed it!)

Coming up next... Asticou Terraces and Thuya Garden. More serene beauty! More quiet reflection! (More climbing than meandering, however!). ;-)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vacation: Acadia, Part 1

Vacation: Day #4

We had big plans for the first day of July, so we hopped on the bus to Bar Harbor and got an early start with breakfast at Café This Way, tucked down at the end of a little side street. We dined out on the porch at the table you see behind me, and figuring out what to order was simple enough since they just have one vegan breakfast option, a yummy tofu scramble with toast called, "The Vegan!" Ordering it was both gratifying and weirdly disturbing... "Yes, we'll have two Vegans, please!" LOL

After breakfast it was off to buy our Acadia pass ($10 for the two of us, good for a week - a bargain at any price!) and board the Island Explorer to Acadia. We were just about the only people on the bus, and since we were sitting up front we got to enjoy a little chat with our very fun bus driver, Charlotte. We asked each other where we were from (she's a Maine native), discussed her hometown and her job (which she loves) and the delicious splendor of Maine's blueberries (which we were too early for, boohoo) and answered her questions about our vacation. We also asked her about a restaurant on the Green called Tamarind we'd noticed that morning, but she said it was very new and she hadn't eaten there or heard anything about it yet. (Remember Charlotte and Tamarind, they'll both return for an encore in a later post!) Then we were at our first stop, Bubble Pond, and off to explore a bit of beautiful Acadia National Park!

You can follow along with us if you'd like as we explore the area by referencing this handy map of Mount Desert Island - which we learned is pronounced "dessert." French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who came upon it in 1604 while exploring Maine's coast, was inspired by the island's mountains with their bare summits to name it "l'isle de Monts deserts" (deserts meaning bare or desolate). But for us it was easy to remember how it's pronounced because it's so sweet!

Just like this critter ;-) ...

BW at Bubble Pond,
which I found cute since one of his nicknames is "Bubbles!"

I'd been seeing a lot of beautiful cultivated flowers everywhere, but Bubble Pond presented the first wildflower (and you know me and my wildflowers!) And it was a real beauty - a deep purple Iris at the water's edge, just begging to be photographed! Naturally (pun intended), I obliged. :-)

This photograph, one of my favorites from our trip,
doubles as tomorrow's Wildflower Wednesday post! ;-)

We set out on the hiking trail from Bubble Pond, and it wasn't long before another tantalizing photo op appeared: I thought this looked like two trees celebrating their handfasting ceremony, presided over by Reverend Rock...

Blessed Be and rock on, newlywoods! We're rooting for you -
hope neither of you ever leaves the other!
(Do tree brides have hope chests, or just regular trunks?)
Okay, this is getting sappy, I'll stop now. ;-)

After a while on the trail we joined up with one of the Carriage Roads and followed it the rest of the way to Jordan Pond. There were a few other hikers and a couple of horseback riders, but mostly the Carriage Roads were being enjoyed by bicyclists that morning who were all very courteous and looked to be enjoying themselves immensely. We'd considered renting bikes (the Island Explorer buses have bike racks), but figured we'd just hike for free this time and save an Acadia bike ride for next time.

I was enchanted by these little - whatever-they-ares! A variety of moss no doubt, though to me they look like bright green twinkling stars...

I think ferns are so pretty, and there were plenty to admire everywhere we went. But this spot yielded a particularly thick, bright and vibrant fern flock...

Can't have a Carriage Road without a carriage gatehouse, I suppose... so here it is in all its historic and photogenic handsomeness...

And what's a gatehouse without a gate? This was right across the Carriage Road from the house...

And what's a hike without a skilled navigator and guide?
BW studies our Acadia trail and Carriage Road map.

Not far from the gatehouse and its gate was Jordan Pond. We poked about in the pretty gift shop in the Jordan Pond House (where we bought a good Acadia topo map, recycled cotton Acadia tshirt for moi, a couple of magnets and some postcards), and then strolled the grounds a bit till we found a nice spot to fly our kite (fail! Shifty winds due to the surrounding trees made launching impossible) and enjoy a picnic lunch (success!) :-)

This was a fanciful tree beside our picnic spot, bedecked with brilliant white flowers. It looks dogwood-ish to me, but I'm stumped (oh no, not another tree pun! LOL) Do any of you know what it is? (To get a closer look, click on this - or any other photo - to see a larger version).

BW appears to be wearing a hugely extravagant floral hat!
Interesting fashion statement for a hike.
Or any other time, really. :-D

Another souvenir picnic lunch...

The tamari pumpkin seeds, dried apricots & mangoes, and sun dried tomatoes were leftovers from our road trip/airplane survival kit from home. The Green Superfood Energy Berry bars and banana remnant came from Whole Foods, and the mini cinnamon raisin bagel was a freebie from the Highbrook. The Ryvita crackers from Bangor you've already met (and will get to know well, for they followed us everywhere! LOL)

We ended up eating our picnic lunch with one of the locals. We were joined by this lovely dragonfly who posed patiently while I tried to get a decent closeup in the bright sunshine...

Apparently clover blossoms make a nice picnic treat too!

Coming up next... Asticou Azalea Garden. It's a beauty, so don't miss the bus! ;-)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vacation: Bar Harbor

Vacation Day #3 continued...

After exploring Sullivan and the joy of cowlicks (lol), we arrived at our motel in Bar Harbor, the Highbrook. What a sweet place! It sits up on a hill, all perky and quaint with its barn red and crisp white colors, and has such clean, quiet, pretty rooms which are large yet cozy. We even had a screen door, which I thought was a homey little touch for a motel! It's owned and operated by a very nice and helpful family, and the rates are quite reasonable, especially for Bar Harbor in the summer.

Here's BW sitting on the porch outside our room, patiently waiting for the photographer to finish so we can dig into our al fresco dinner...

Simple, yummy and frugal, our dinner was a "souvenir feast" of goodies gathered from various places we'd visited to this point...

The multigrain bread was from Whole Foods in Portland, Dr. McDougall's Tomato Basil soups from Brunswick's Parkview Café (which somewhat redeemed their pitiful breakfast offerings), and the Ryvita Pumpkin Seeds & Oats crackers, raw kale salads, Raye's Mustard Winter Garden spread (made in Maine), and Peak Organic amber ales (also made in Maine) all came from the Natural Living Center in Bangor.

Another neat feature of our motel was its proximity to two bus stops on the fantastic Island Explorer bus route (a free bus service every 15-30 minutes from the motel to Bar Harbor's Village Green, and from there to various locations in Acadia National Park!) We could catch the bus right next to our motel, or if we wanted to catch it 20 minutes earlier, right across the street on the campus of the College of the Atlantic. I mention the COA because as small world coincidences would have it, our neighbor's son Shiva went there on a full scholarship a few years ago! We'd never even heard of it till then, and here we end up staying right across the street and frequently catching our bus to Bar Harbor there. (Shiva, a delightful person and fellow vegan, has gone on to do much good work on behalf of the world's oceans, forests and fellow earthlings. Go, Shiva!)

We wasted no time hopping on the Island Explorer for the first time. Right after dinner we took it to the Village Green - where this photo of BW under a comely clock was taken - and poked around some of the fun shops.

After strolling around the Green, we walked down to Agamont Park by the harbor and took the next two photos before heading out to Bar Island...

I thought it was too bad, from a photography perspective, that the fountain wasn't on. But then I realized if it had been, I probably wouldn't have wanted to perch my fanny on the rim of it for a photo. :-)

As you can see, it was a very nice, cool evening and lots of people were out enjoying it. But no one appeared to be enjoying it half as much as my husband! Hey, BW ~ show us your Happy Vacation Face!

Note the beautiful four-masted windjammer,
the Margaret Todd, over his shoulder

The walk from Bar Harbor to Bar Island (which is part of Acadia National Park) is about 1/2 mile each way and can only be done for about 3-4 hours around low tide. During high tide the sand bar (which is far more rocky than sandy) is underwater. It was a lovely stroll, and looking back at Bar Harbor we could see these two waterfront "cottages"...

I took this next photo from the rocky edge of Bar Island looking back at Bar Harbor. I like to call it, "Bairns & Cairns." :-)

Though no longer bairns, we too added stones to the cairns!

As you enter the trees of Bar Island, you're officially in part of Acadia. There's a hiking trail across it, but it was getting dark and we hadn't bought our Acadia pass yet so we waited till the next day to set foot on Acadian soil.

And that's a good segue to my next posts, which will take us into Acadia National Park and through a very busy day. Wear good walking shoes! :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Odds & Ends

I'm taking a one-post hiatus from my vacation serial-blogging project to catch up on a little news, an anecdote or two, and a few non-vacation (well, not entirely!) photos I thought you might enjoy. I promise that I'll resume vacation blogging with the very next post.

Some of you have been aware over the past several months (or several thousand dollars, whichever came first) of our dog Josie's relentless, recurring urinary tract infections. We'd no sooner get one cleared up than a new pestilence would set up shop in her bladder. She had xrays, blood tests, an ultrasound and a constant series of urinalyses, cultures and histopathology followed by rounds of various antibiotics, until it became obvious that a polyp in her bladder that showed up on her ultrasound was probably the culprit and had to be removed. So three days after we returned from our vacation, Josie had bladder surgery. She did great, came home the next day, and only needed a couple of pain pills. We got her pathology report on Tuesday, and her bladder polyp/mass was a benign fibroid. We were all fairly certain it wasn't going to be malignant, but it was still wonderful to get the official good news. Josie's still on penicillin for another week to clear up the most recent, pre-op infection, then she has to have another urinalysis, then another one a month later, and hopefully that will be the end of it. The poor girl has been through a lot in the past year - she tested positive for heartworms last June and we all went through a 6-month ordeal getting that cleared up, and during that time the UTI problems became evident. She's been very brave and patient through it all, and we hope she can enjoy smooth sailing now for the rest of a long, happy, healthy life. (And we hope our veterinarian's 3-year old son will enjoy his college years at Harvard, paid for by Josie and us. LOL. Sort of.)

Josie and BW share a father-daughter bonding moment
(between vet visits!)

A few of you know enough about our TV-viewing attitude and habits to find this amusing: we were tapped last week by Nielsen to keep TV diaries for a week. This is comical because we almost never watch TV, especially during the summer, and when we do we only watch PBS, which is the only thing we can still receive through the giant, outmoded C-Band satellite dish that came with our house. We don't receive any local stations, can't get cable up here, and don't subscribe to a dish network. We used to subscribe to some C-Band channels (like Comedy Central, the only one I still miss sometimes), but when everything went digital and we didn't want to fork out a bunch of bucks to upgrade our equipment, that was that. Except for this one remaining analog PBS station which seems to be a national feed of some sort that we think comes out of NYC... but we're not sure. Anyway, imagine us being sent Nielsen TV diaries! LOL!

I think we were selected because we returned the Nielsen survey postcards we received a few weeks ago along with $2 to thank us for participating. We told them on these postcards that we rarely watch TV and the only channel we do watch is PBS, and I added a little note thanking them for the $2. Maybe that was it - maybe the thank you note impressed them. Or maybe we're one of the few households who bothered to return our postcards. I can picture some poor wage-slave in the Nielsen mail room opening ours and yelling to a co-worker, "Hey, Vern! Got a live one here! Toss me a couple of those TV diaries, would ya?") :-)

However it happened, this time we got the diaries, several sets of rather redundant instructions, and a whole $5! So I've been dutifully keeping our diary (there's one for each TV set in the house, but our other set is ancient and can only be used to watch VHS and DVDs), and this is pretty much what the Nielsen people will get to read when I return them tomorrow...

Thursday - TV off
Friday - TV off, except for 20 minutes of Charlie Rose and 15 minutes of Tavis Smiley before falling asleep (no offense, Tavis!)
Saturday - TV off
Sunday - TV off, except for 45 minutes of Nature
Monday - TV off, except for 30 minutes of Antiques Road Show
Tuesday - TV off (we like Nova and Frontline, but it's reruns now)
Wednesday - TV off

So when they tabulate our diaries and it skews the national numbers so that you see headlines bleating, "America's TV Viewing Suffers Dramatic Decline, Industry Analysts and Marketing Executives Express Alarm!" you'll know I damn well earned my $5. ;-)

Why watch the mindless dreck on television
when you can watch videos like this?
(That's BW with his arms raised.
I have no idea who that Kate bimbo is). ;-)


In other interesting what-we-got-in-the-mail-recently news:

On our way home with our last load of hay on Saturday we stopped at the post office and BW ran in to get our mail. He emerged with a befuddled look and as he got in the truck he said, "You got two Christmas cards!" Huh? Then he clarified... two Christmas cards I'd sent out (to Seattle and Arizona) had been returned with "unable to forward, return to sender" stickers, dated July 11, 2010, slapped on the envelopes.

Oh, and let me clarify. These Christmas cards had only local postmarks - dated Dec 16, 2005!

You don't think I'm just going to let that slide, do you?

I took them to the post office on my way to town yesterday and politely requested an explanation (I was polite because it wasn't our post office that had postmarked them almost 5 years ago, and wasn't our post office that had sent them back to us on Saturday with zero explanation). Our prankster postmaster Scott wasn't working yesterday, so it was his wife Pat who was tending the post office (yes, it's a small town so it's a family-run thing!). Her eyes bugged out when she saw the year on the postmark, and she had no explanation other than they must have been stuck in a drawer somewhere all these years. She photocopied the envelopes to give to Scott so he can see what he can find out. As she handed back the envelopes, I asked her, "Can I have a refund on my postage, since I paid for services that ended up not being rendered?" I was being facetious, but she said, "Sure, I can do that!" And darned if she didn't hand me seventy-four cents for the two wasted 37-cent stamps (kind of makes you nostalgic to see that postage rate, huh?)

If Scott provides a blogworthy explanation, I'll share it. But meanwhile, between the Nielsen people and the USPS, I'm a whole $7.74 richer! If this keeps up, I'll have Josie's vet bill paid by 2015! (Just in time to get some of my 2010 Christmas cards back in the mail!)


Okay, that was a lot of words to read. How about more photos?

We saw, for only the second time in the 18 years we've lived here, a male Lazuli Bunting out our kitchen window earlier this week. Unfortunately, he was only there about 30 seconds and my camera wasn't handy so, no photo. But here's a great photo I found on this website called (it's in Hebrew so I haven't a clue what it says but they have nice photos!)...

There are also some really awesome pics of Lazuli Buntings here.

And I thought you'd like to see the crib of Martha Stewbird, one of our resident Barn Swallows...

Note how she has added a dramatic touch to her decor with a turkey feather! It's harder to see, but if you click on it to view a larger image, you may notice that she's also installed area carpeting and bedding of fine, imported (from the barn floor) Mocha mane and tail hairs. There's also a fly on the side of the nest, but I don't think that was one of Martha's decorating touches. The guano probably is, though! ;-)

And since they received the most comments and adoration on my last post, here's a "Kissy-Cow & Friend" encore presentation...

Kissy's friend, although the first to greet me,
didn't go for public displays of affection.

Kissy-Cow joins us and sizes me up

Kissy-Cow earning her new name

And finally, because I missed Wildflower Wednesday yesterday, here's an attempt I made this spring at an artsy-fartsy shot of a wee Yellow Violet (for you, Susan - a Viola adunca) ;-) viewed through a hole in an Arrowleaf Balsamroot's giant leaf...

Nobody sees a flower, really - it's so small -
we haven't time, and to see takes time...
~Georgia O'Keefe

Peekaboo, shy little violet!

See you next time when we'll be visiting Bah Hahbah! :-)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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