The Real Work Begins

Monday, October 5, 2015

We rested for part of Sunday; the sun rose at 6:40 and there was a pile of suds in the cove and more washing ashore.

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The day started with Cyndy at the stove making coffee cake, which we’re still feasting on. We then went to work sweeping and vacuuming the tower.

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The sun set taking with it a yellow brick road across the sea.

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Today the weather was clear and sunny so we wanted to be doing chores and projects outside. We stored a bench in the Oil House along with some signage, took off the screen door and put it inside and screwed on the plywood cover over the window in the door to protect it in the winter.

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Bunks have been installed to accommodate any workmen who come out who need more than one day for whatever project they are taking on.  The loft that had been there has been removed.

There was a coffee break during which time I reincarnated the cinnamon raisin loaf I’d baked that never rose and came out like a brick, into bread pudding.

Finally we got down to some of the projects we’d saved for our last work week here on the island and decided that Cyndy’s dream of priming the landings in the tower with rust-proofing would finally come true.

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The tower and the split duplex caretaker quarters were built in 1857. There are taller lighthouses in Maine but none that are shining a light higher than the one here on Seguin. Because it’s built on a hill that is 153 feet above sea level, the tower didn’t need to be that tall; there are only 48 steps and the light shines 24/7 not blinking or rotating at 183 feet above sea level. The job we’d set out for ourselves was to put down a primer rust-proofing coat on the two landings inside. The entire inside of the tower needs to be painted but because we’d planned a limited part of that, it was doable; the middle landing still had to be scraped. There was much satisfaction to be felt once the job was done.

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The bread pudding was just coming out of the oven at lunchtime and we salvaged some bread going moldy in the fridge for grilled ham and cheese.

 

Cyndy cleared the holes marking the original tower on the lawn so we’d find them again next spring. That tower was built in 1795, commissioned by George Washington, was octagonal, and was made of wood. Ken Young had found the exact location of the foundation and set out to mark it with eight discs of marble the size of hockey pucks put in place just below the surface of the lawn so the mower would go over them, a couple of years ago. For a time we lost sight of them because the grass grew in, so every year we need to expose them again. You should have seen Cyndy and Ken and me with tape measure and string trying to find them last year!

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In the afternoon Cyndy packed up everything in the gift shop, per Nat’s instructions, with a little help from me. It all fit into three bins, which we’re hoping Ethan will take off the island tomorrow when he comes at noon with some guys who want to surf off the cove. The swells out of the east are amazing!

Now that the wind has died down the biting flies and mosquitoes are back.  Even inside, reading an e-mail from my friend Rick, one landed right on my screen in the living room!  It’s almost impossible to go out at dusk without repellant.

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While Cyndy was digging holes, I prepped dinner. On Sunday we tried a new recipe for Apple Cider Chicken made with thighs, onions, granny smith apples and bacon, which we served up with roasted acorn squash stuffed with the last of the creamed spinach. That photo came out blurry but today for dinner the last two thighs were reheated and served up with corn and jalapeno fritters.

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The sunset was one of the most magnificent we’d ever seen here and it seemed to last forever.

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Down and Dirty Housekeeping

Saturday, October 3, 2015

We were hoping the seas would lay down enough this last weekend before we close on Columbus Day to bring out a few visitors.  Even though we did see a couple of sailboats out in the wind (even one motoring and bouncing high on the swells) none have braved the usually calm cove here on the island.  With the winds coming out of the NNW and directly into what is usually protected, it’s not an easy mooring, especially knowing you have to use your own dingy to paddle to shore.  I got turned over once last May so I know the wisdom in that.

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Once again, normal housekeeping chores turned out to be more involved than they seemed in the planning.  Candy and I attacked the green mildew on the bench that sits at the top of the wooden tram with vinegar and a brush and made it white again, storing it away in the Whistle House for the winter.

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It was time to shovel out the Clivus in the cove.  This is the only public facility on the island and like the ones in the house, it is composting.  It was built almost fifteen years ago by Nate Power with help from his dad David, I’m told as a project for his Eagle Scout badge.  It’s a beaut. At the end of the season you have to open up the bottom and shovel out the compost and dump it, in this case, in a corner of the camp ground.

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But this task necessitated the use of the wheel barrow and taking that out of the Donkey Engine House where the big diesel motor is that runs the tram, we discovered that it had a flat tire.  There was nothing to do but to take it off and bring it up to the Whistle House and fill it using the compressor.

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There were four full trips to the dump off the camping area.

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The camp ground has a picnic table and we keep it mowed.  Sometime the scouts get a permit to come for a night or two but they haven’t done that in a year or so.  As in most parks, we turn the table on it’s side for the winter to minimize the piles of snow that can rot the wood.

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Over the winter a number of the roofing tiles blew off the Donkey Engine House.  When repairs were made last summer, the ones that were taken off were stacked up and saved.  They make good treads on the ramp leading up to the wooden tram and we saw that some needed to be replaced.

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By the afternoon, the skies had cleared but it was still very windy.

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We decided to finally tackle the tower.  Cyndy is determined to put down a rust-proofing primer on both landings before we leave, so we went up with vacuum and broom and did a thorough job making that ready.  She had already done the scraping on the top landing but not yet on the middle one.  The view from the catwalk was spectacular.

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By the time we finished, it was time for tea and a romp with Grady who, I swear, is twice as big every time you turn around.  After another beautiful sunset it was time to take down the flag.

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Dinner consisted of sautéed chicken breasts, sausages with caramelized onions, rice and asparagus with chopped almonds.  I usually lose weight volunteering on the island but this trip, I think I’m gaining…

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Little Change

Friday, October 2, 2015

Winds still 25 mph and mostly cloudy.  I love the wind; Cyndy’s pretty tired of it.  It’s in the 40s and really bracing.

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While Cyndy mowed down below, I decided to bake.  I’ve been craving it; the gas in my building in New York City has been off since mid May.  I think Con Edison may be turning it back 0n on Monday.  Plumbers spent the summer putting in all new gas pipes in the whole building.  So I thought, well I haven’t baked bread in a long time, let’s try cinnamon raisin. I think the milk was too hot and I must have killed the active ingredients in the yeast because it didn’t rise and came out like a brick.  I’m sure it didn’t help any that most of the flour ended up on my pants.

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The lawn looked great after Cyndy finished.  She even did the camp ground and Cove Trail.

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Housekeeping chores followed:  a thorough vacuuming of the downstairs living room, dining room, kitchen and hall was long overdue and we went through the bureaus in the kitchen and dining room and dining room closet to rearrange, throw out and put in order.

The yard up top is really lush.  We’re basically climbing around on rocks that happened to be carpeted with a thick lawn that we mow, so the brown spots this time of year are the places where the carpet is not as plush.  But it undulates in a really beautiful way.

Five years ago I brought a kite with me thinking I’d use it all the time but the winds here are like the currents in the water.  They go in all directions at the same time.  There may be a steady stream coming from any given direction but the gusts make it impossible to keep a kite air-born.  There’s a reason George Washington commissioned a lighthouse here in 1795 at the cost of $3000 (a huge sum in that day); the currents around the island competing with one fifth of the fresh water Maine produces gushing down the narrow mouth of the Kennebec River, and the changing tides, make for a confluence of turbulence that caused many ships to founder around this island before there was a light and a horn to warn them in time to prevent disaster.

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There were more cards and Scrabble and a brief scare when the big electric heater downstairs didn’t fire up.  I jiggled the plug and it kicked in.  That’s not a good sign.

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Dinner consisted of crab cakes I brought frozen from the Union Square Green Market in New York, with homemade tartar sauce, wild rice and creamed spinach.

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Warmed summer berry buckle made for a grand desert and sleep came on by ten, after more cards and Scrabble and planning for the weekend.

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Summer Berry Buckle

October 1, 2015

The weather is much the same:  winds are unchanged at about 20 mph steady out of the north, which brings the surf directly into the cove, and it’s 48 degrees and humid.  No more lunch time meals at the picnic table.

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I tried out a new recipe by Melissaa Clark from the New York Times and thought it was as good a title for today’s blog entry as any, since we couldn’t forget about it for the rest of the day, after feasting on two slices each for breakfast.

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http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017644-summer-berry-buckle

I think when we leave I’ll put down all the recipes from the blog that I didn’t invent myself (which is most of them).

Three hours of the morning were spent closing down the guest quarters which involved vacuuming up all the dead flies, moths and dust bunnies, shaking out the curtains and rugs and making up all the beds.  We also put the closets in order equipped with blankets, sheets and towels appropriate for each room and making sure all the bureaus were ready to be filled next summer.

Cyndy is master of the composting toilets and did a number on the bathroom, foremost of which was to empty the throne and dump the contents behind the Whistle House.

We were determined to leave the garden ready for spring, and since it had rained most of the day before, thought it might be relatively easy to turn.  As most chores turn out here, it was more involved than we anticipated.  We didn’t finish until one.

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We were more than happy with the result.

We plan to get just a couple of plants (zucchini and cherry tomatoes) to plant in May to inspire the next caretakers.  It’s always a fine line as to how much you let them discover  on their own and how much you give them a head start by sharing your experience.  Larry and T’Ann (2015 caretakers) said at the Summer Fest that it was invaluable to them to spend a week with us last May before their stint began on their own for the whole summer.  I remember that France and I spent the month of June 2010 in the dark about a lot of things.  It was a cold month and the big electric heater downstairs kept tripping a breaker until we figured out how to toggle two of them together (following David Power’s advise).  By that time we didn’t need it anymore.  And that’s just one example of finding our own way.

Over the last of the shephards’ pie at the picnic table for lunch, we discussed what was needed to treat the rust on the two landings inside the tower.  We have a primer for rust but the anchor gray paint will have to wait until May.  By that time we’ll see if our rustproofing did the job over the winter.  We also spent a little time planning the menu for next week in an effort to use up fresh and frozen items in the fridge.

In the afternoon we cleared some of the signage and benches from the lawn and played a couple of games of rummy.  After a little prep for dinner we decided to see if there would be a sunset worth braving the cold and wind for, even though it was still overcast.

So we donned heavy clothing and with big hot mugs of tea, took our seats at the sunset bench to see what would happen.  As is often the case on Seguin, surprises were in store.

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I had intended to grill burgers, but the wind made that prohibitive, so we broiled them instead with bacon and had broccoli and the rest of the roasted beets on the side.  The olive buns Cyndy picked up at Whole Foods toasted up just right to accommodate.

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There was time for more cards and some reading and by ten, we were out for the day.

 

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Raining Cats and Dogs – Hold onto your Hats!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The title comes from our weather station.  It actually said that!  Today we saw sustained winds of 24 mph and by nightfall it was up to 28.  I saw that in New York City they are predicting 30 mph winds for Thursday so I guess Joaquin is heading in our direction.  Along with the wind came driving rains in quantities making up for lost time; it’s been so dry.  In Portland there were cars floating around in the streets.

Once again, indoor chores were the order of the day so we began by attacking all the bedroom closets and bureaus:  two on each side of the split duplex.  (Next door, above the museum and gift shop are guest quarters and another bathroom with a composting toilet.) There were sheets, blankets and towels all a jumble.  Going back and forth, this task took much longer than anticipated (three hours) but it was worth it.  We keep telling ourselves that we’ll be grateful when we’re back next May when we come to open up for the season.  I would have taken a photo but who wants to see that.  We’d left the window open in the bathroom next door and everything was soaked.  There were a lot of clean towels to hang on the line in our hall to dry.

We decided we should check on the dingy in the cove and it was a good thing we went down.  The Lighthouse Trail was a flowing river and the tide was unusually high with waves lapping into the dingy, which was already filled with rainwater (we had left the plug in).  So we managed to tilt it sideways to drain the water and then dragged it up as high as possible and re-secured it.

On the way up, we thought we’d inspect the South Trial as we hadn’t been out there yet and the wind was coming from that direction.  The beginning of the trail was not as clear as the North Trail and is in need of clipping some branches and whacking some weeds.  If we hadn’t been wearing heavy hooded rain gear, we could have suffered some bad pokes to the head.  Once we got out to where it is clear and the trail goes over a rock face, it was so wet and windy we decided it was not a good idea to go all the way out to the end on the rocks.  Back at the beginning of the trail and the vista that looks out at Cobblestone Beach, we sighted a pair of Great Blackback gulls.  They are the biggest gulls on the planet with a five foot wingspan and a body that is thirty inches head to tail.  Magnificent!  There were incredible swells and bright red leaves on some of the bushes I would love to have photographed, but the rain was so heave I didn’t want to take out my cellphone to capture them.  I’ll do it another day.

Once back in the house, we were both in need of a hot shower.  I went first while Cyndy tended to puppy Grady and just as I was all soaped up, the power went out.  It was 2:45 in the afternoon.  Then the water lost pressure and all I got from the shower head was spurts of air.

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The auxiliary lights on the catwalk came on as they should and we settled into a game of rummy contemplating how long the food would keep in a fridge without power.  Just as we decided to call the Coast Guard, after confirming that the power was out in Phippsburg (a cable comes to us under the sea) the power came back on.  It was about 4:30.  The problem was that the light didn’t come back on in the tower.  Fortunately we remembered where there is a reset button.  During the winter if the same thing happens, it can stay out for months until the button is reset.  I’m surprised this hasn’t been updated yet to work remotely from the mainland but it hasn’t.

Not too many people have ever seen this vary familiar picture of the tower when there is no light.  Ordinarily this tower is on 24/7; it doesn’t blink and it doesn’t rotate.  Every light has it’s own signature and mariners of the past depended on the different signals to tell one from the other.

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There was just enough filling left from the jalapeño poppers to spread on thick slices of tomato and top with parmesan, bread crumbs and olive oil to bake/broil for appetizers.

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For dinner there was leftover venison and beef shepherd’s pie.  By the time we’d played some more rummy (Cyndy won all three tournaments) and a game of scrabble (me) we were so tired we hit the hay by 9:30.  Tomorrow is another day in paradise!

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A Foggy Day Inspires Indoor Chores

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Today was mostly foggy and the Marine Forecast looks progressively worse to the end of the week.  There is usually a crew that comes out on Wednesdays to get some of the bigger jobs done while the summer caretakers go to the mainland for supplies, but that isn’t going to happen this week.  Captain DeBery says there won’t be anyone out until at least Sunday and maybe not even then.  The seas are rough and most of the day saw a steady wind out of the south southwest.

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It proved to be a good day to dig into some of the chores on our “to do” list inside.  So we headed down to the Whistle House where the fog horn had been blasting all night (we love the sound of that but it’s been worked on, is now a little louder than I remember it, and consequently, neither of us got much sleep) with Grady in toe.  For a little puppy he’s become pretty brave and adventurous, although he does spend a good part of the day snoozing.  I swear every time I turn around, he’s twice as big.  (His dad weighs in at 220 lbs.)

The Whistle House is our workshop and it’s incredible well equipped.  There is also a room inside that is maintained by the Coast Guard, which contains all of their monitoring equipment and electronics regarding the light at the top of the tower and the fog horn.  Needless to say, at the end of the summer, the workshop is in disarray and needs attention to put everything back in order, clean up, and throw away as much of the useless items as possible.  Getting trash off the island is no small chore.

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After a couple of hours, order prevailed.

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There was one Delmonico steak leftover and, sliced up, it made a great sandwich for lunch with a slice of raw onion on toasted deli rye.

We thought for sure we’d take naps in the afternoon but, forging ahead, the afternoon evaporated in tasks and it was tea time before we knew it.  Cyndy cleared out receipts from the gift shop and did a final tally.  We’ve left out benches on the lawn and signage on the trails for this week thinking there would be guests but now that the weather has changed, it doesn’t seem likely.  Starting next week we’ll pack up the items left in the gift shop for the trip to the Friends office in Bath and take down all of the items in the museum to store in bins in the closet.

Cyndy got out the hand clippers and we went to work trimming around the garden and along the sidewalk steps out front.  (Neither of us like to use the weed whacker much.)  We plan to turn the garden and have it all ready for May.  Being the last caretakers here for the season, closing down, we are at an advantage, as it will be the two of us, hopefully with the new caretakers for 2016, who will open up again the week before Memorial Day.  Instead of letting the new caretakers try to figure out the garden along with getting settled, we plan perhaps to pick up just a few starter plants in May like zucchini and cherry tomatoes, to get them inspired (or not).  This summer’s garden didn’t amount to much.  The September keepers even used it for composting egg shells and scraps.

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The composting toilet on our side of the split duplex caretakers’ quarters makes so much noise now with it’s venting system that, even with the door closed, it helped keep us awake along with the newly invigorated fog horn.  Candy made six trips to the workshop to find the right hex key to take apart the vent at the back, which in itself proved almost impossible.  We could only get the screws out at the top but it was enough to tilt it back and expose the exhaust fan.  A couple of squirts of lube made it purr like a kitten.  I spared you the photo but they are really a marvel.

It was Cyndy’s turn to cook; I became the sous chef and it was an all Rachel Ray evening consisting of jalapeño poppers and chicken breasts stuffed with Boursin cheese and wrapped with prosciutto (except we didn’t have any prosciutto so we made do with bacon) and steamed broccoli with parmesan and butter.

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Sunset comes around 6:30 so we manage to have appetizers first and then dinner after.  Since the west was thick with clouds there was no sense hanging out at the sunset bench.  The only light spot in the sky was off to the south where there were a few breaks in the sky so we carried a blanket up to the highest rock to sit with Grady and watch dusk fall.  It was a view we don’t usually take in from that spot at that hour.

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Dinner was divine followed by gin rummy (Cyndy killed) and Scrabble which I managed to win.  It was a long day and sleep came as my head hit the pillow.

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Digging in on Seguin

Monday, September 28, 2015

It’s Monday and another beautiful clear day so outdoor chores and projects seemed to be the order of the day.  There had been a little rain overnight so the lawn would have to wait a couple of hours.  In the meantime, we dug into weeding the stone walkway leading up to the back door anteroom of the tower.

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Taking a short coffee/tea break on the front porch, Cyndy noticed a snake orgy going on just below.  (All the snakes on Seguin are horny; oops, I mean harmless.)

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The Friends of Sequin Island Light Station bought new mowers this summer and they are really high tech.  Getting on the riding mower (a Gravely ZT zero radius turning mower) is taking your life in your hands but once you get the hang of it, it’s almost as if your brain is running it.  So if you end up in the bushes, is it a senior moment?  It does a 360 practically on a dime.  You get into it like an amusement park ride but unfortunately, there is no seatbelt.  (In the manual it says that this mower is capable of amputating hands and feet and throwing objects.  Do they mean me?) Then you pull together two handles like the bar on a roller coaster: one for each hand, turn it on, and you’re off!  There is no foot break.  Each hand does right and left forward and back respectively.  What a trip!

And the new push mower is a dream as well.  Unfortunately a rock popped out of nowhere and bent the blade and that’s when the workshop comes in handy.

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The lawn this time of year has some dry spots, but newly mown, it really looks nice.

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Candy did some weeding in the garden alongside the kitchen.  Nothing much came from the big circular garden surrounded by rocks this summer.  There are a few zucchini blossoms and T’Ann planted some wild flowers.  Last May when Larry first saw it he thought it would make a great fire pit.

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We felt good about the work today; Cyndy really wanted to take a dip in the cove but by the time we got down there the sun had gone behind the trees and it was breezy.  Those are two things that discourage wading into 61 degree seawater.

But we did have the energy to put together dinner using some venison Ethan had left us.  On the menu was venison and beef shepherds’ pie with roasted beets.

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We decided to read after dinner for a while before game night but we both fell asleep for three hours and finally got up to hit the hay.

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