Wednesday Warriors

Thursday, October 8, 2015

During the summer, the caretakers have one day a week to go ashore to pick up provisions, stop in at the Friends office and do laundry.  On the boat that comes to pick them up early in the morning is a crew of volunteers, most of them members, who work on various projects.  There is a very long “to do” list.  In this way the island is always staffed and visitors are always able to tour the tower and the light and beautiful visit the museum and gift shop in addition to hiking the trails and taking in the vista 153 feet above sea level and three miles off the shore.

Even though we’re now into the fall volunteers, there was work to be done and the Warriors came on Thursday.  They were promised blueberry muffins so this morning I made blueberry corn muffins with coconut.  After shuttling everyone onto the shore in the dingy and hauling bags and tools up to the top of the island, we settled at the picnic table for coffee and muffins and to talk about what needed to be done.  The one thing Ken said he couldn’t stand to eat was coconut but he ate all of his muffin and said he loved it.  There was a surprise in store for Ken:  desert at lunch was more coconut in the toffee cookies.

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Ken Young headed up to the top catwalk outside the light to touch up with black paint the moldings on the glass panes he had caulked earlier this fall.  It always surprises me to see people up there from the ground because they seem to dwarf the structure and make those structures seem smaller than they had appeared to me without anyone juxtaposed that way.

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Jeff and Tom and Rick added some hardware to the big doors at the base of the tower which had been refurbished this summer.  The inner doors to the tower are original but the outdoors were replaced in 2007 after a storm that tore through on Patriots’ Day that blew them out and also the window at the top landing.  It must have had to do with the pressure inside opposing the pressure of the storm outside; a real freak of nature.

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Years ago the British used cannons from the coast to warn ships at sea during intense fog.  The practice was followed in the early days of Republic but proved to be too costly.  Bells where then placed at light stations to be rung in fog  to warn ships away from the rocky shore.  Today of course, they use horns in fog and everything is automated.

Ken Young is the Friends historian and he did a lot of research to find out what happened to the bell that was used on Seguin.  He was able to find the original at the Coast Guard station in Boothbay and through documentation, prove that it was indeed the Seguin bell.  The evidence was irrefutable and the Coast Guard agreed finally to relinquish the bell and allow it to be transported back to the island.  So last summer a helicopter was arranged for the homecoming and today it proudly sits just about where it did in 1858.  There were minor adjustments to be made regarding how it was hung and Jeff and Tom and Rick went to work on that.

 

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At the same time, Cyndy, Julie and I began the process of putting the screens on the lower windows to protect the house during the winter when everything is locked and closed up for the season.

 

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Finally the bell was hung properly and free-standing for a few brief moments before wooden block supports were again placed under it.  There was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  The bell doesn’t have a clapper but was rung by striking it on the outside with a mallet of some sort every ten seconds in fog no matter how cold or how nasty the weather was.  We had to hear what it sounds like so we each took a turn with a block of wood and it rang out for the first time in many many years.

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There was a lunch break when we all gathered once again around the picnic table.  Grady was becoming a little less shy and played with some of the newcomers.  And Ken loved the cookies (he had two) even with the coconut.

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During the heavy rain last week we noticed a puddle in the middle of the floor of the Whistle House floor so Jeff and Tom climbed up on the roof after lunch to put tar paper over the the peak.  It wasn’t big enough but will do until something more substantial can be put in place next year.

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Julie touched up spots on the big refurbished doors at the base of the tower and painted the threshold sill to the gift shop while Cyndy painted a piece of plywood for Jeff to install on the gift shop door to protect it in the winter where he will place a screen next year.  That’s good because there were two birds who got in the day before when Cyndy was in there packing up and left the door open.

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By mid afternoon the work was finished and the crew headed down to the cove to meet Captain DeBery for the transport back to Popham.  The new dingy works well but in the swells still crashing into the cove, everyone got wet and Tom slipped off the stern and fell in up to his waist trying to push off.  I hope Ethan has something warm for him to wear on the trip back.

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There was time to romp with Grady on the lawn before the sunset.  He loves his plastic pail and it’s a hoot to watch him try to grip it with his teeth.  He sometimes gets stuck.

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The remains of the shrimp boil made a terrific chowder.

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It was determined that we would leave the island on Sunday instead of Saturday so Cyndy and I are thrilled to have a bonus day.  Part of the evening was spent discussing how we would wrap everything up and have all of our provisions down to the cove by Sunday morning when Greg and Anne would arrive with Ethan to take care of shutting down the power and water, draining the pipes and locking up.  Now we don’t have to talk about it until Saturday and Friday can be spent enjoying a little more of this paradise.

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Only Two Wednesday Warriors Today

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our big plan for the day was to sand the kitchen floor of at least three coats of paint that had not held up will over the coarse of dragged chairs and scuffs.  In the end, the equipment on hand was not up to the task so to make a long story short, we settled for a good scrubbing and then putting everything back in place.  A rough up with a sander and a fresh coat of paint will have to wait until next May.

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This detour did not stop me from making a batch of coconut toffee cookies.

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While Cyndy dragged out the gates that would be put in place on the windows next Sunday when we leave the island, and put away the items in the museum for storage over the winter, I gave the lawn a final mowing.  With the door open to the gift shop, two visitors arrived:  a pair of sparrows looking for a winter home.  We walked away and eventually they found their way out.  Next year a screen door will be made and hopefully we won’t have this problem again.

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The reward for all of that was a dip in the ocean (I only got up to my knees) and a brief sunning on the deck in front of the boathouse to dry off.  The swells from the east were even bigger than yesterday so we made the only walk we know of on the perimeter of the island, between the end of the cove trail and cobblestone beach.

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Sunset came after which we feasted on shrimp boil.  It wasn’t quite the presentation Beverly achieved last year but she would have been proud none the less.  We had to call her for the recipe.

 

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Sunshine and Surf

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It’s a beautiful clear sunny day without a cloud in the sky.  The wind is still coming from the north so the cove is a mess.

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Captain DeBery informed us that he may come out between 12 and 1 with a few buddies who want to surf.  The video clip doesn’t really do it justice but the swells are huge and I can see why they thought it might be fun.  However, by the time they got here after 2, they’d decided the waves weren’t “pretty” enough so they hung out on the boat instead.  At least we were able to pick up the laundry bag with down jacket and vest that Cyndy had left behind when we came out.  This was the first time we’ve had a boat in the cove in ten days.  And as far as I was concerned, the cove was still too rough with the north wind blowing swells directly in, it was not advisable to take the dingy out to meet them.  But Cyndy was determined to get her puffy warm clean cloths and headed out in her bathing suit with a push from me.  I know better than to have my camera or glasses with me after capsizing just that way last May so I didn’t get a photo, but she managed to retrieve her laundry without swamping the boat.

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In anticipation of Ethan’s arrival, we brought down empty gas and water cans, dirty laundry, garbage, and three bins filled with gift shop items hoping Ethan could take them off the island for us, but it was too rough and we had to prioritize.  There is a work party coming out on Thursday (the Wednesday Warriors) so we can hopefully send them back with them.

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To kill time, Cyndy went up to the house and turned on the water so we could hose down the outhouse down below.  It’s now spic and span inside and ready for visitors next summer.  I spared you the photo.

We’ve seen a few monarch butterflies on the island but nothing will top the miracle we witnesses September 19, 2012 late in the afternoon.  We noticed them streaming toward Fat Albert (the squat evergreen near the sunset bench).  At closer examination, we saw each had found a spot on a limb and had settled in for the night folding in their wings.  In the morning, they left one at a time the same way they arrived and went on their way, to Mexico, we were led to believe.  Here’s a clip from that fall:

The summer caretakers (Larry and T’Ann) left us some nice chunks of beef in the freezer so I put them into the slow cooker in the morning with some carrots, onions, celery and a box of green beans we found in the freezer as well, ready after 9 hours on low for our evening meal.  There will be enough for leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  And we came up with a plan for the day tomorrow since the regular work party had to delay their arrival until Thursday.  I won’t mention it yet in case we find we can’t pull it off, but we’re really excited.

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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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