Water Closet for August 8, 2014

Minnesotans used to boast on their vehicle license plates that they lived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  Maine, one time part of Massachusetts is said to have 6000 lakes and ponds1 and 3,500 miles of tidal coastline.  An old Stream Teamer’s detailed atlas of the Maine he loves and often visits shows the northern half of the state pocked with lakes large and small.  In the days before the paper companies reigned, Henry David Thoreau, a Massachusetts friend, and their Penobscot Indian guide famously spent a summer paddling one to another through the forest.  In the next century lumbermen cut the trees and used the waterways to float them off to mill and market.

The hardy lumberjacks with axes, handsaws, and horses have been replaced by high tech machines and trucks; and in places tourists.  The loggers of old worked in the cold months.  The tourists play in summer on the lakes and connecting rivers.  Retired friends, Stream Teamers Gaylen and Glenice Kelley, travel to far northern Maine from Middleton each summer.  They are not tourists, rather old ‘Mainiacs’ returning home to Aroostook County where as school children they harvested potatoes from the country’s famous fields.  They filled barrels each late summer and early fall.  Now they have a cottage on Lake Madawaska, in Stockholm, about 12 miles southwest of the mighty St. Johns River, the Maine-New Brunswick line.

Each summer we look forward to lively email letters from this active couple.  The following are Glenice’s last two with another from Sandy Rubchinuk, just back from Maine, tucked in between.

Hummingbird at supper as the sun sets beyond Lake Madawaska in far northern Maine – Gaylen Kelley photo

We read them aloud in our shack on the Ipswich River wishing we were there.  Glenice, Sandy, and Thoreau, well describe similar scenes a century and a half apart.2  All enjoyed the Milky Way, something we haven’t seen here in years. Thoro (family pronunciation) wandered away from the light of lakeside campfires to marvel at the stars.  Glenice looks up while swimming at night.

Here are Glenice’s and Sandy’s letters:

July 10, Lake Madawaska

What beautiful weather we are having today – a bit windy, but perfect for today’s chores. . .  Of course I had to take my early morning swim to wake me up.  (She also often swims at night.)  The water was cooler today, but refreshing.  My big news is that I found two little eggs in the junco’s nest in my flower box.  Now I have to resort to watering them with a dropper, so I won’t disturb them.  It sounds like Middleton residents should be given such devices for Class 5 Water Restrictions!  The sky is filled with puffy white clouds against the most gorgeous blue background.  Loons continue to circle in front of our place each day, and ospreys fly overheard looking for fish.  We have 12 mergansers that swim by periodically, as well as one family of black ducks.  The hummingbirds at our feeder have voracious appetites. – This is life in Maine for now. . .

Glenice Kelley


July 25, Middleton

. . . Leon and I (Sandy Rubchinuk is president of the Middleton Stream Team and husband Leon is an active member.) just returned from three full days tenting at Chase Lake in the Maine Woods, north of Baxter State Park, enjoying all the wildlife that came out to celebrate the warm breezy, bug-free, days on the lake.  A very healthy cow moose left her yearling on shore as she dove like a giant serpent, rolling over trying to stay submerged to eat the water plants. We had a huge scope viewer that brought the action so close!  Our loon family on the lake stayed near our campsite,  I believe we shielded it then a bit from the bald eagle cruising above eyeballing their precious two babies.  We also enjoyed watching deer and duck families, the latter immediately chased away by loons, obviously jealous of the two dozen babies swimming with them.  All so good, wilderness that can’t be experienced anywhere else in the East, in my opinion.

Sandy Rubchinuk

July 28, Lake Madawaska

.  . . Yes this is a bit of paradise here, we lovingly care for the part that we are privileged to inhabit for awhile.  We digest all of the surrounding areas, rich with nature’s sights and sounds.  It really is best balm for achy bones and anxious souls.  Gaylen and I are communing with little birds this summer.  We have not seen a moose or even a beaver! Maybe Sandy and Leon lured them to Chase Lake, but we are happy to share them.

Mama junco now sits on a beam overlooking her babies who are huddling in a feathery brown ball in their nest.  I talk to her, assuring I won’t interfere, as I too am a Mom and want to encourage healthy and independent children.  She flits and struts to find the best bugs, just the size for their growing bodies and oversized bills.  I understand they will leave us one day soon.  An eagle couple soar overhead everyday, the harsh winter destroyed their nearby nest but they are present, particularly if there is a floating fish or quick osprey they might rob.

The sky is gray this morning, but it won’t keep me from my early morning swim. Now we must bike down to the mail kiosk to pick up our mail – no, not really, it’s just an excuse to exercise our legs.  The road is less traveled and feels safer for us octogenarians compared with the streets of our hometown.  We enjoyed picking several quarts of luscious raspberries yesterday afternoon. . .   People wonder what we do in the country – life is never boring.

. . .  We wish that all could have a few days of quiet and beauty.  Yes, we do see the Milky Way almost every night.  The Big Dipper graces our bedroom window each starry night . . .

Glenice Kelley

The last time one old Closeteer saw the Milky Way was from the ice on a tributary of the Kennebec River while taking an open air bathroom break away from a stuffy fishing shack.  Let’s hope all eight billion folks on the planet will see the Milky Way someday.  In the Water Closet we’ve discussed the possibility of annual blackouts to make such viewing possible.  If light pollution was temporarily gone would particles in the atmosphere allow?   Thanks Glenice for letting us know it is still there.

1     Minnesota defines its lakes as having surface areas of 10 acres or larger.  If ponds of less than 10 acres were included the number would much exceed 10,000.  Maine includes ponds over an acre in its 6000 tally.

2     Thoreau, Henry David. The Woods of Maine. Thoreau vividly tells of his visit to still largely wild northern Maine in the summer of 1846. This masterpiece of nature literature is a favorite book of ours.




Precipitation Data* for Month of: April May June July
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) – Inches 4.53 4.06 3.95 3.89
 2014 Cent. Watershed Actual – Inches 2.88 2.77 2.03 10.0 as of 7/28**


Ipswich R. Flow Rate(S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/Second (CFS)

For July 29, 2014   Normal . . . 6.6 CFS                      Current Rate  . . . 93 CFS

*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June. Normalsdata is from the National Climatic Data Center.

**Updated July precipitation data is from MST gage.

THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

Featured photo credit: vinsanity2009 via photopin cc