Sunday, March 25, 2012

Maine Maple Sunday 2012

Now Playing -  Crazy In Love by The Puppini Sisters

Life -

One thing Linz and I have always enjoyed is doing the local tourist things. We find that a lot of people never take the time to explore the area they live in and we've been guilty of that lately too. SO this weekend, we bit the bullet. The last weekend in March every year, the state of Maine's Maple Syrup makers or Sugarhouses have an open house when visitors can stop by, check out their setups, try some sweets and buy their pure maple syrup. 
We wanted to go last year but lost track of time until we'd missed it, but this year was perfect. We both had it off and the weather, though not the shorts weather we've had the last few days was a perfectly gloomy and wet 45. Just right for coffee and maple goodness and a drive through the hills in a cozy car.
The production of "Real" syrup is a pretty involved process and is more about timing than anything. When nights stay cold but temps rise to above freezing during the days, the sap of the Maple tree starts running and at some point in the distant past, men realized that if they tap that and boil it down, they get a truly delicious treat. Most places still do it the old fashioned way - a couple of hollow spikes in a tree and either buckets or a series of lines that lead the sap down to a series of wood fired boilers that condense 40 gallons of sap into one gallon of syrup in an extremely complex process.  "We boil the crap out of it."  - Bob's Sugarhouse Employee.
Dover Foxcroft
Initially, we'd planned to start out the day at the Firehouse in Dover-Foxcroft, a cute little town to the north that we really like, but the firehouse was PACKED to the brim and we had better things to do than stand in line for an hour. So we headed down the road a bit to Bob's; a small, wooden building along the road with a front end filled with treats and assorted bottles of golden syrup and a back room filled with the massive steel evaporator. The treats, including fried dough and syrup, maple coffee, maple butter, maple carrot cake, maple cider and maple whoopie pies were pretty tasty and doled out by the bored offspring of Bob himself, who chatted amongst themselves about the quality of balloons this year compared to those of yore while studiously ignoring us. 
We ate outside in the cool air then went back in and bought a small tub of the maple butter. In a plastic container that used to say "Maple Cream" but someone cleverly crossed out "cream" with a marker and wrote "butter" in its place. It will be delicious on many, many things. 
The Interior Of Bob's Sugarhouse
But one thing we'd hoped for was missing - we wanted to know what the different grades of syrup tasted like without having to buy a whole bottle of light, medium and dark amber. Next on our path, the Breakneck Ridge farms where they make their own syrup and raise bison for their meat. They promised  maple tea and buffalo burgers.
Where we almost stopped for lunch, the sublime Spring Creek Bar-B-Q
It had started to get colder, hovering around freezing and small flakes started to fall as we weaved further northeast into Maine. About an hour later we found the place, up a somewhat muddy road topped by a sign - 
We walked. As we reached the property, an orange and white dog that we mistakenly thought was called Molly greeted us and, after passing inspection, we were allowed to enter. I was a little bummed that the fire wasn't going in the syrup room, as it was getting cold, but the employees/family at Breakneck was much friendlier and talkative, giving us samples of maple tea, maple Italian dressing, maple whoopie pies and maple buffalo jerky. They also had samples of light and dark amber syrup. 
The light is what most people that have had real maple syrup get which, to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of on pancakes and the like. I enjoy the flavor, but I like it better by itself. The dark was better, it had a deeper, woodsier flavor with a touch of smokiness.  We bought a small bottle of the dark and some jerky and wandered down the hill in the snow to grab a buffalo burger and some buffalo chili.
The food wasn't the greatest. The burger was tender and had the distinct flavor of bison that I like, but it was too thick and small around and far too undercooked for my taste. The chili was better - lots of meat and beans with a taste that reminded me of turkey chili oddly, and it had virtually no spice at all. But sitting under a canopy with the snow drifting around and the cute old farm dog hanging out with us was really nice. 
Overall, it wasn't the tourist extravaganza we'd expected, it seemed like most of the visitors were residents that use the day as an excuse to buy their yearly gallon of syrup, but it was a nice way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Small Sigh Of Relief

Now Playing -  I've Been Everywhere by Johnny Cash

Life - 

Well, it's not as bad as I'd feared. A few months ago, the large chain drug store I'm a manager for announced a major management restructuring. And that was all they said. No info, no reassuring words, just a formal announcement then the sound of a zipper sliding across their lips. 

So naturally, speculation ran rampant. And I mean RAMPANT. None of us would have jobs or if we did, they'd be for less money and more work. To be frank, though I love the company I work for and it's been nothing but good to me for the last nine years, I was worried. My wife and I are finally getting our funds and debt on track and without my job, that wouldn't really happen. And there's that little matter of the fact that we not only moved 3,000 miles to Maine with the company, but we then moved even further north to Bangor, where, if my job was eliminated, I could have a very difficult time finding a replacement. 

Without saying too much, when the final, official plan was announced this week, it wasn't as bad as feared by any means, it was simply a way to restructure the company  to be in line with its current expansion. (Or lack thereof.) There's been some changes, and I do think we'll end up losing a few good folks, and had I not taken the promotion a year ago I'd have some hard work and decisions coming up, but in the long run, it will be good for us. Us being me, my family and my job. I don't know how the pay will pan out, I may end up getting a cut, but for now it sounds like everything should stay status quo around the ROUS Motel. At least as far as my job is concerned.

The only thing that bothers me about it is that the announcement made last week outlines a plan that is to take place over the next two years. Nothing really immediate, and really, there's no reason they couldn't have made some of this clear months ago and alleviated some of our stress. 

But it's over now, and we can all look to the future. Oh and for those that follow me on a closer basis than this infrequently updated blog (Less infrequent now, I hope!) knows that I was also up for a promotion to store manager. Didn't get the job, but I did, apparently impress at the interview and I'm in the store with the new manager, with their faith in my ability to help him and get our little drug corner ship-shape. It's actually kind of exciting. And not just because I get to watch this new structure from a slightly different perspective than I would have as a newly made manager.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So Long To These Kite Strings

Now Playing -  West Country Girl by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Life -  
 Okay. This is the beginning. Again. I've been a slacker for a while now, doing awesome things and not writing about them. Well, doing things and not writing about them, anyway. Nothing too spectacular. But life. And since that's the heading on here that shows up every time I start a new post, I guess I'd better start writing about it again.

So what's happened since.... well a year ago? Wemovednorthgotnewjobdidntgetapromotionboughtlegossoldstuffonetsyplayedwithdogs snow christmaswasgoodmovedstoresacoupleoftimesreadlotsofbookswatchedtvgotnetflixcookedmexicanfood.

Next? Finishing a couple of books for adults, write a book or two for kids, keep up with Etsy, try to make money outside of my increasingly stifling retail job, head to Salem for a writer's conference and the Lego store, fly to Idaho for a week this spring and try to whittle down our debt.

Check back. I'll be around more often.


(And if you thought reading those was hard, it was just as hard typing without adding spaces. haha)