Behind the Scenes at Maine Wildlife Park with Curt Johnson

Wayne and I attended a Pow Wow at the Maine Wildlife Park this summer after which we spent some time exploring and looking at the animals. Unlike a zoo that operates for profit, the animals at the park cannot survive in the wild. It’s there that they are provided a safe forever home because they were injured, orphaned, or became human dependent while being raised illegally in captivity. The park is self-sustaining and owned and operated by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife within the Division of Information and Education. Each animal becomes an ambassador for its species to help educate (and charm!) the public. It has a staff of thirty and over two hundred volunteers which includes retirees, college interns and during the off-season, inmates involved in correctional trade instruction. The inmates gain experience and can give back to the community by doing necessary tasks like painting, shoveling and maintaining wood furniture.

I contacted park Superintendent Curt Johnson about the possibility of volunteering next season. Since I’m always interested in learning more about people who work with and love wildlife I asked him after he interviewed me if I could interview him for my blog. Not only did he agree to it but he also offered me a rare opportunity to visit the park and see the animals after it had closed for the season! I felt so lucky and of course I accepted his generous offer!

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Good Old Yankee Thrift: The Book!

I’m ready to announce that my current book-in-progress is about Yankee Thrift! This summer I created my outline and gathered my research materials which I have been reading and studying. I’ll be doing the actual writing of it this winter. 

This isn’t going to be an academic book but will definitely include historic texts. I’ll share my reflections of living in subsidized housing while attending a wealthy Upper East Side prep school in Manhattan during the excesses of the 1980s before moving to New England to live a simple, frugal life. The lessons learned about Yankee frugality from my time spent living in Vermont and Maine has been nothing short of transformative. I will share those powerful lessons and principles with you in this book.

More details to come in a future post!

My Thrifty Yankee Sock Secret

When you get a hole in one of your socks, do you say “darn it!” and then actually…darn it? I know some of you do! I’ve tried sewing and such but it’s not my thing, especially with mending socks. As a compromise, it occurred to me that in the winter no one sees my socks because I’m wearing boots, so why not wear a mismatched pair?!

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Photographing Wildlife

I looked outside my window at 6:50 a.m. this morning and saw Cider who also saw me. He gets very animated when we make eye contact. It was going to start raining the next hour followed by at least two days of a mix of snow and ice. I knew it might be my only chance to get my Christmas card photo before he went underground until spring!

It can be challenging working with non-traditional models. You can’t make an appointment with them for a photo shoot because it’s on their terms and timeline. They will NOT work for free. You will have to pay the talent in seed currency as you go, no exceptions.

Although I had just dressed and my hair was still wet I ran outside with my vintage Christmas photo props and jar of seeds. I didn’t even pause to put on a coat despite it being 40 degrees.

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Things I Didn’t Buy Today

We drove up to L.L.Bean early this morning because I wanted to see their silk long underwear in person before buying it. I last wore L.L.Bean’s silk underwear during the winters I spent up in Orono for college back in the 1980s. Wearing a silk top and leggings is a natural, comfy and effective layering strategy to stay warm outdoors in the winter. Long-time readers know my relationship status with Bean is complicated. I’m still willing to try every so often. Plus, I like to see the fish!

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And now a word from my blog sponsor, Informed Bliss

Sometimes I can’t contain my joy for living in such a beautiful place, but really, why would I want to? Is it because we’re trained to think that happiness springs from ignorance, so that only simple-minded people are content? Or is informed bliss (the name of my first blog in 2001) in a world filled with sadness and tragedy along with comfort, kindness and connection a real possibility?

YES! Yes it is!

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I’m Popular?

I put up a “No Soliciting” sign on my door about five years ago and since that time I’ve learned that either people (politicians, religious pamphlet types, contractors, but no Avon ladies [do they still exist?]) don’t know the meaning or they believe that they are exempt. If I put up a “No Panhandling” sign on my office window I suppose it would be merely decorative if that.  This squirrel was waiting for me, the seed lady, to take a break and look outside my window and then hopefully give him or her seeds on the deck just like I do for Cider. But that didn’t work…

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Last Call for the Real Deal

We ran out of fresh picked apples last week so I bought some “local” (New England but not from Maine) “apples” from the grocery. Those mealy imposters were shameful! I was reminded that “local” is often used very liberally to extend to surrounding states hundreds of miles away and does not mean picked yesterday, last week or even in the past month. It’s the same with grocery tomatoes. After I tasted home grown I couldn’t go back to those hard waxy pale orange replicas. Wayne agrees, so it’s for those reasons that we went apple picking this morning in thirty degree weather. It’s the last weekend for picking apples at our favorite orchard, Libby & Son U-Picks, and it turned out to be filled with simple beauty.

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Passing Beauty and My New Friend

Maine’s autumnal show ain’t over til it’s over! There is still much to appreciate right now including my new chipmunk friend, Cider. At first I thought he lived in my neighbor’s yard but I followed him home and see that he’s living on the other side of my house. About four days ago Buster and Ricky went south (a few feet) underground for the winter so they aren’t here to chase Cider away. Sunny is still awake but I know that she, too will soon be in torpor for winter and the passing of summer’s growth will be complete once it’s covered with a cold white blanket. Thankfully that’s not happening in the near future!

Here are some pics I just took to share all this remaining loveliness with you, including Cider’s audition to be a model.

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