Water Closet for April 29, 2016

[pullquote] “The owners had had attractive huge stones, each weighing a ton or more, moved into a 50 foot diameter circle near the summit of a tree capped hill.”[/pullquote] Is it any wonder that coastal Maine so attracts us? Hold a map of Down East, north up, and marvel at its ragged edge of long peninsulas jutting southward into the Gulf of Maine.   Wrinkled with hills it looks like a torn towel being rung out and dripping islands. Along Maine shores about 3200 coastal islands show above mean high tide. There must be tens of thousands of coves and small headlands on all their coasts. In the waters around these islands and peninsulas lobster folk tend their pots. Below the rocky ledges, evergreen woodlands, and mown fields that tumble to the tidal waters are narrow rocky beaches and flats where clammers dig at low tide. The exposed intertidal ledges are wracked with seaweed. In summer, above the still cold ocean, most all the land is lovely green and tolerably warm.
In the 1960s Maine PR people and environmentalists posted signs on some of its incoming roads saying, “Keep Maine Green.” Cynics said the words were referring to green-backs. Either way or both it was a good idea.

Blueberry field in the upper Medomak River watershed - Medomak Valley Land Trust photo

Blueberry field in the upper Medomak River watershed – Medomak Valley Land Trust photo

Last weekend the old Closeteer visited Bob and Sally Butler who had moved their small but successful business 11 years ago from Middleton to Waldoboro, Maine. On land gently sloping to a pretty bay fed freshwater by the Medomak River they built a handsome house and a matching barn for their bottling and distribution operation of the clear pale yellow extract of jojoba seeds from Israel. These former movers and shakers in Middleton quickly became so in Waldoboro. The locals, despite the Butlers’ new- comer status, elected Bob selectman; Sally became active in the Medomak Land Trust, a good fit for her after what she had done here while on the Conservation Commission and as a member of the Essex County Greenbelt. Bob, originally from Minnesota, and Sally from Devon, England, adapted well and became Down Easters. We wonder if old time Waldoboreans would admit to this. Along the tidal estuaries of the state, once the northern part ours, are people from all over the world sprinkled among the natives. Several members of the Stream Team who rave about Maine visit every other weekend, or go there hunting and fishing several times a year. Others like the Butlers have become valuable members of the state for more than just taxes.
Waldoboro’s 71 square miles make it five times the size of Middleton yet with only one-half the population. In the 17th to 19th centuries Waldoboro like many river towns on the sea, Portland to Eastport, built wooden ships from logs floated down from the interior on south flowing rivers. Much of the coastal marine activity has given over to lobster boats and pleasure craft in season. Over a century ago visitors would have seen scores of coastal schooners off shore. In the past two centuries they have been superseded by trains and trailer trucks. Trucks on I-95 are the faster, far less beautiful coastal cargo carriers of today. The Closeteer on his two day visit saw very few vessels of any kind on the water.

The sea water of the Gulf of Maine and the fresh water of the Medomak River join at Waldoboro – Medomak Valley Land Trust photo

The sea water of the Gulf of Maine and the fresh water of the Medomak River join at Waldoboro – Medomak Valley Land Trust photo

Maybe that is partly because his hosts took him inland north up into the gentle hills of the Medomak watershed where they are successfully helping to protect land from over development. A few farms of diverse types raise everything from dairy cows, goats, sheep, llamas, chickens, potatoes, cabbages, to blueberries. As in most of New England much former farmland has gone back to woods.
We walked in a fine woodland and fields along the upper Medomak where Sally’s trust has just recently taken over the protection of 396 acres. River water ran clear over gentle riffles in places flanked by red maples, birch, hemlocks, pines, fir and spruce. The filtered sun and sounds made the whole scene very pleasant. A crew of volunteers had cleared an unobtrusive trail with a simple bridge over a swale near the riverbank. From the shade we departed over a large field of corn stubble and a hayfield. Farmers with some restrictions will continue to use many of the trust’s fields.
From the river we climbed by car to watershed land inland where friends of the Butlers tend almost 100 acres of low-bush blueberries. These so-called “barrens” were to be burnt that late afternoon and evening, something done every other year or so. Open fields of ankle high plants with islands of exposed rock and flanking stone walls presented a most inviting view on that warm spring day. The owners had had attractive huge stones, each weighing a ton or more, moved into a 50 foot diameter circle near the summit of a tree capped hill. The fine ring sits on the barrens like an informal Stonehenge, one only chest high. The circle opens to the south. We entered and sat on stones streaked with mica flecks, some the color of fools’ gold. Each stone is different in streaking and shape. We joked of satanic rituals being held within, however, the mood didn’t fit at all. The tenants of two birdhouses nearby, tree swallows in one, the other bluebirds, sang happily. Actually they were squabbling but to us it sounded pleasant. All seemed right with world as gentle breezes played around and over the carefully placed native boulders. In July Spanish speaking berry pickers will probably sit for lunch where we sat. More evidence of Maine’s growing diversity.
Ongoing diversity has been the history of Maine. After leaving the magic ring gracing the barrens, we meandered south roughly paralleling the Medomak in our return to salt water between Waldoboro and Friendship. We traveled by car. Three centuries ago the Abenakis would have done so on foot or in canoes. For English colonists who displaced the Abenakis movement was on foot, horseback or wagon. Serious transport of cargo was done by ships and boats. Then trains came followed by the ubiquitous car which reduced a fair wind sail from Boston to Waldoboro from over 30 hours to less than three. Airplane flights to Portland and beyond haven’t even been mentioned. No wonder those who can visit in the warmer months do so in droves. We hope now and then they’ll read the geologic and social history of a land once covered by mile-thick ice with a coastline many miles out beyond where it is now, a place without people. The ice melted; the sea rose. Greenland and Antarctica still covered in glacial ice await their turns to inundate further. Then the ice could thicken again in time. In the meantime we’ll visit the still open sea flooded valleys of coastal Maine. Wouldn’t it be nice if we bicycled, rowed, paddled or sailed there in real efforts to keep Maine and the rest of the world green?  ______________________________________________________________________________


Precipitation Data* for Month of: Jan Feb Mar Apr
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 3.40 3.25 4.65 4.53
   2016 Central Watershed Actual 3.31 3.71 3.80 2.3** as of Apr 25

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For April 25, 2016  Normal . . . 98 CFS     Current Rate . . . 48 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru March.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for April
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or         <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584