The Maine
An artful dialogue about the wonders of the state.

Northern Currency

text by Jonathan Ives
photo by Lazy Acres Farm

“I can’t believe I’m taking layers off,” I said out loud as I pulled my sweatshirt overhead, throwing it to the grass underneath the staging.

“Yeah, it gets pretty hot with the sun on our backs,” Mark said smiling. “It’s hard to believe it’s already the middle of December.”

“I heard it’s supposed to get up to 47 degrees today. I kinda wish I didn’t put so many layers of long underwear on.” I peeled the neck of my shirt away from my chest, letting the cold air circulate around the layers already wet with sweat.

“Let’s take a break after this course and get some coffee,” Mark suggested. “I have a couple of sausage patties from the pig we killed this fall.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ve never met a sausage I didn’t eat”

I pulled out my tape measure and put a small pencil mark on the cedar shingle five inches from its bottom edge. I passed Mark the end of a chalk line. Pulling it taught, I used my other hand to snap a crisp blue line across the wooden shingles. I grabbed the caulking gun and ran a thin bead along the corner board. I placed a cedar shingle against it until the soft sealant squeezed out. Using my hand as a guide I pounded in two nails six inches from its bottom. In this way the next course would cover up the nail heads, keeping the side of Mark’s barn waterproof for many years to come. Because of cedar’s natural resistance to rot and insects, this shingle job could last for one hundred years or more.

I turned my head when I heard the sound of a motor whining. A green John Deere gator slowly emerged from a trail in the woods and began driving across the field towards the barn. A young man was at the wheel with his wife and two children in the back; they were all laughing and smiling as the work utility vehicle rocked side to side over the large, grassy bumps.

Mark smiled and slid his hammer back into the loop of his tool belt. “This is my neighbor Jimmy coming to pick out a Christmas tree.”

Jimmy turned off the engine and a large black lab jumped out of the back and immediately started sniffing the ground around the edges of the barn. The mother helped her two daughters climb over the side while their driver silently looked over our handiwork with an approving smile.

“Nice weather for some siding,” Jimmy said. “Looks like you got a helper.”

“This is my childhood best friend,” Mark announced as I held my hand up to wave.

“Must not be too good a friend if he’s got you out here working on a Sunday.”

“Keeps me off the streets,” I replied, smiling. “Seems like a good trade: I shingle his barn and he feeds me organic meats.”

“Don’t forget about the liquid lunch break,” Jimmy said climbing out of the gator.

“We’re having a deer heart for lunch,” Mark said climbing down the ladder. “You know Franklin, who lives a couple houses down? He called me up last night because he shot a deer just before dark and needed help following the blood trail.”

“Was he out in the old swamp? Out by little pond?”

“Yeah, that’s where he shot it, but we ended up walking for over a mile through that marshy wetland until we found it. It was almost midnight by the time we had it field dressed and carried back to the road. He gave me the heart.”

“Good deal.” Jimmy walked to the side of the barn. “So, where should we go to find a Christmas tree?”

“If you guys go to the far right side of the field the trees start off small and get bigger from there. You can have any tree you want.”

“Perfect. Now I just have to find my family.”

“I think I saw everyone go into the house.” Mark pointed. “It might be hard to get them back outside once the kids start playing.”

“That’s fine with me. I’ll just let them know that I’m headed out.” Jimmy started walking toward the white farmhouse. “It’s always quicker picking out a tree by yourself. Less arguing.”

“You might have it back to the house and decorated by the time they notice you left them.” Mark slowly climbed the ladder back up to the staging.

“He seems like a nice guy,” I said, handing Mark the end of the chalk line.

“Jimmy’s great.” Mark held the line taut. We snapped it, watching a shower of blue chalk slowly fall onto the wooden staging planks. “His children are best friends with our kids and his wife is Sarah’s hairdresser. In the summer Sarah gives her flowers and she cuts the whole family’s hair. My son Henry loves dump trucks so when we had his third birthday party here a couple of weeks ago Jimmy brought his dump truck over and parked it in the yard. We couldn’t even get Henry in the house for cake until Jimmy brought his truck back home. He even let Henry ride over with him. As a thank you we offered him a Christmas tree from out back.”

“It seems like trade is the real currency up here in northern Maine.” I grabbed another handful of nails.

“You’re right about that. You give what you have and ask your neighbors for what you need.”

“Speaking of which, do you have any large shingles left?” I asked, looking at a nine inch gap. “I will trade you a joke for a nine inch cedar shingle.”

Mark looked through the pile at his feet and came up with the perfect piece. He began to hand it over but quickly pulled back. “Let me hear it first.”

“Alright. What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa? A rebel without a Claus!”

Seasons Of The Farm

photo by Lazy Acres Farm

Woodbox and Clearn

from Maine Lingo: Boiled Owls, Billdads, & Wazzats by John Gould

WOODBOX: The kitchen box for firewood which has additional duties in transferred usage. To be “sick a-bed in the woodbox” is to be laid up with a minor complaint which, although distressing, doesn’t put you to bed. To be flabbergasted by sudden bad news is to be “knocked clearn into the woodbox” by surprise. To get “hit in the woodbox” is somewhat like taking a poke in the breadbasket. (See snow in the woodbox.)

SNOW IN THE WOODBOX: Used to describe somebody down to the depths of poverty. If you’ve got snow in your woodbox, the Ladies’ Aid will bring you a Christmas basket.

CLEARN: Extra fillip for clear: “He’s a hundred percent honest clearn through.”

Cathedral Trail

painting by Jessica Ives

painting by Jessica Ives

The Cathedral Trail is the shortest way to reach the top of Mount Katahdin from Chimney Pond. Hikers follow blue blazes up granite boulders as big as cars. Scrambling up the one and half mile trail with hands and feet, their movement more closely resembles rock climbing than hiking. The 2,350 foot assent follows three large rock buttresses towering out of the Great Basin below, granting views all the way down to the small, pristine tarn from where the trail began.


207 Paintings post everyish Tuesday around 5:30am EST on both The Maine and Save thirty percent on a 4×4 inch oil on panel painting by making your purchase within the first week of its posting. Instead of $300 pay just $207, a number which just happens to be the Maine state area code.

Tuesday 207 Paintings are exclusive to The Maine. They depict the land, the light and the people that make this state a state of wonder. Jessica is editor of The Maine and writes occasionally as The Outsider.


text by Jonathan Ives

I smiled, quietly closing the front door behind me with the excitement and nervousness of a young teenager sneaking out of the house after curfew. The cold of the early morning air felt like glass in my nostrils but my body was warm from the extra layer of long underwear I pulled from the trash bag moments before. Every layer of clothing I wore had spent the last few days in this bag filled with pine bows and oak leaves. I needed to cover up my smell as a human. Deer have extremely sensitive noses.

My head lamp cast a small beam into the darkness as I walked slowly across the large field behind my house. The tall grass was bent over by rain and frost, and softly crunched with each step I took. I held my rifle with both hands in a ready-carry position, the barrel pointed down. This was one of the many techniques I learned a few months ago in a hunter safety course I took at the local YMCA. At thirty-three, I had never been hunting, but I thought it might be a great way to know where my food comes from and avoid the rising cost of organic meat in the supermarket. I bought a .308 from L.L. Bean earlier that fall and spent the last weekend getting it sighted-in with my neighbor at a gravel pit down the road. After three boxes of bullets, my shoulder was so sore I had to put the rifle away until today, the start of hunting season.

At the far end of the field was a large stone wall, where thick green moss covered the tops of the small granite boulders. I carefully brought one leg over and made sure it was planted securely before swinging the second over the wall. The trees were open in this area of the forest, each pine laying down a soft carpet of red needles dried out by the sun. Even in the early morning darkness, I knew if I walked in a straight line I would meet up with a small deer trail I had found a week earlier. The trail soon became nearly invisible from the small fir trees on either side. Their branches wiped the wet morning dew onto the blaze orange vest I bought from Reny’s. A small bubbling brook crossed the trail and I stopped to listen as it dropped into the black waters of the Pemaquid River. I followed the brook away from the river until I reached a large open wetland covered in moss and ferns. This is where I would find a deer.

I climbed to the top of a ridge that looked over the marshy area and sat at the base of an old pine tree. I leaned my back against the trunk and turned off my headlamp. The low light in the sky gave the overhanging trees a dark outline, but my immediate surroundings were still invisible from the last minutes of night. Sitting in the darkness, I could feel my ears become supersonic, picking up on every little sound. Soon the sky was light enough to make out the open area below where the small brook wound around mossy islands. I looked through the scope of my rifle and clicked the back to 3x, until the ferns below looked much closer. Laying my rifle back down on my lap I scanned the area where the brook ran out of the thick spruce trees. My mind raced as I pictured a large twelve point buck walking out of those woods. Some of my friends had received Any-Deer permits during the State of Maine’s annual lottery drawing, which meant they could harvest either a buck or a doe. I missed the application deadline at the end of July so I could only shoot a buck, a deer with antlers over three inches long.

The night before, I placed a few small rags on trees at the edge of the meadow. They were soaked in dominant buck urine, a gift from my neighbor. At this time in the season the scent of a stranger draws other males to investigate their competition, figuring out where they fit in the pecking order of potential mates.

I sat in silence for what seemed like hours, hearing the sounds of chipmunks gathering acorns, and birds whistling their morning songs. I smiled and I breathed in the cold fresh air. For a brief moment I felt I was part of something much larger than myself. As the morning sun slowly rose above the trees at the far side of the meadow, I heard a twig break behind me, followed by the crunch of dead leaves. I held my breath, frozen with a mixture of fear and excitement. This might be the buck. A few minutes passed in silence and finally I heard more footsteps, this time much closer. I slowly turned my head, still holding my breath. It was a doe. She took a few more cautious steps forward. She stood at the edge of the ridge where it fell steeply into the marshland below. I watched as she lifted up her large black nose, smelling the cool breeze that made the last of the leaves shake on the hardwood trees. It was still so cold her hot breath came out like sea smoke, swept away by the breeze. Her large ears seemed to move independently, like a man moving his TV antenna in search of a better picture. I don’t know how long she stood next to me, but it felt like an eternity. It was long enough for me to fall in love with her large black eyes silhouetted against a circle of white fur.

She slowly walked away from me, taking cautious steps along the steep sides of the ridge, getting closer to the spot where the brook enters the marshland. She would stop and listen, moving her head from side to side like she was looking for something. Perhaps we were looking for the same thing.

That morning on the ridge, on the opening day of hunting season, I didn’t leave with what I had set out to bring back. I did, however, bring back something that would last me much, much longer.

A Postcard Home

handmade by Margaret Rizzio

Night Hikes

photograph by Joseph Sortwell

Breakwater Evening

photography by Jim Dugan

Maine Farmland Trust