The tree sparrow’s song
Pierce’s through the morning air
Straight into my heart.
~Lynn Thomas Amber
Spring has arrived and with that the time has come to get ready to depart for Maine and my summer job in Acadia National Park. I’m never quite sure what to expect when we “wake” up the Airstream after its long winter’s nap!! It was a record-breaking cold, snowy winter here in the Northeast and with that comes uncertainty as to whether the Airstream was negatively affected.
We undertook a number of precautions to winterize the trailer last fall. We plug in to an exterior outlet on my son’s garage instead of removing the batteries. That serves to keep the batteries charged over winter. When we store the trailer for extended periods of time, we drain all the water lines and blow air through them to make sure we have removed all moisture that could freeze and damage pipes. In addition, we pour RV-rated antifreeze into the traps located under the sinks and shower.
The interior of the Airstream is booby-trapped with numerous mouse-deterring weapons of mass destruction – a plug-in ultrasonic rodent repeller, a number of ordinary “snapper” traps, and some of the latest electronic traps. The result is an enormous minefield of injurious devices! We also evaluate and tighten up any exterior holes where rodents might gain entry and I scatter Downy fabric squares throughout the trailer – in drawers, cabinets, and closets. We remove all food items and anything else that is fragrant and might be attractive to rodents. All those measures work together to insure minimal rodent damage even though we all know how crafty these little guys can be! I always expect some evidence of rodent occupation.
In preparation for traveling, we spent several days last week at my son’s house in southern New Hampshire where we store the Airstream – to get her ready for the road and habitation once again. Our initial walk-through assessment confirmed that we came through the winter pretty good from a pest control perspective. A couple of quick checks periodically throughout the winter had revealed some minor rodent penetration – with two or three mice caught in our minefield. We removed the corpses and reset the traps for the remainder of the winter. There was no visible damage anywhere from their gnawing little teeth – which was also a relief and no more unfortunate mice in our traps!
While I should have a check-list of standard items to review and check each spring, we usually just brainstorm a quick list of necessary tasks prior to getting started. And, of course, I always retrieve my trusty Airstream handbook and run through the maintenance recommendations it so nicely outlines. The manual is also good to have nearby when needing to reference any of the system information for minor repairs. We normally find something that needs our attention each year. The trailer is 17 years old and things wear out over time.
First on our agenda is to fill the fresh water tank and sanitize all the lines – checking for leaks as we go. We have yet to accomplish this task without at least one minor leak! This year, the same pesky leak occurred at the spray nozzle for the kitchen faucet. It was worse than usual, and we decided it was time to just eliminate this problem. I literally never use this spray nozzle, and I’ve wanted to install an under counter dish soap dispenser in its place since we purchased the trailer. In my opinion, a much better use of this space. Jim purchased the necessary items to plug up the hose under the sink and we found a soap dispenser at the local hardware store. Here’s where Murphy’s Law kicks in. Of course, the threaded extension for the soap dispenser that goes in the hole left by the spray nozzle was an 1/8” diameter wider than the existing hole. I researched how best to cut Corian and found that a jigsaw would be the perfect tool. So, Jim used a jigsaw and some files to widen the hole in the counter-top in order to install the dispenser. It took a tad longer than he expected but he got the job done and the dispenser works great! 😊
We also had a small leak where the water line goes into the shower. Jim has had to deal with this spot before, and he fiddled with it and tightened the connections – which appears to have worked. As a precaution, I purchased a replacement diaphragm kit for the vacuum breaker on the shower side of this connection just in case! We’ve had to replace this before and I wanted to have an extra one on hand. We also opted to purchase a new stainless-steel flexible hose for the shower. The old plastic one was starting to show considerable wear.
With water in the lines, we tested the operation of the water pump as well as the water heater. Both items appear to be working just fine! I ran the water heater on both electric and propane with no visible problems and was rewarded with plenty of hot water!
All other major appliances received a thorough review as well. The refrigerator reached proper temperature in both the freezer and the regular compartment powered by both electric and propane. The heat pump started up just fine and ran smoothly. It appears the Fall ice buildup issue and the bee’s nest we had on the heat pump last year did not produce any long-lasting effects. I tested the gas stove top. All burners worked with electronic ignition except the front burner. This is often caused by some screws that need tightened or clogged holes. I’ll deal with that later! We have never used the oven. The previous owner said that she had not used it either after it heated up more than she thought was safe. I decided it would be nice to have the option of cooking in the oven instead of just using it for storage, so we did take a closer look at this.
Referring to the oven/stove manual in the Airstream handbook, we lit the pilot light and checked the temperature and operation with an oven thermometer. I can’t say the temperature was very accurate at first, but it did seem to improve once it heated up. A fair amount of heat emanated from the back of the stove while we were testing the oven which the manual says is normal. I definitely needed to run the outside vent to keep the “smoke” alarm from being triggered when we opened the oven door. We may try to cook something and see what happens but I’d still like to have the oven operation checked by a professional once we get to our destination.
One thing we have noticed over the past year is the floating vinyl floor has separated in a couple of spots due to the movement of the trailer during transit from place to place. It’s not horrible but Jim wanted to tap it back in place in two or three noticeable spots. This required removing the drawer under the sofa so he could tap the floor boards from that end. When he slid the drawer out, he noticed that the left-hand slide was broken. Luckily, we were able to order a new slide from a local hardware store and will need to fix that before we hit the road. With the drawer out of the way, Jim was able to tap the floor pieces tight and he decided to fasten them down under the sofa (where the screws would not be visible) to see if that would prevent any further movement. We’ll see how that works!
Meanwhile, I laundered all linens, towels and blankets and gave the trailer a complete cleaning. All dishes, silverware, pots and pans were removed and washed as well. The cabinets were wiped down with Murphy’s soap, the windows including the window wells were scrubbed and I vacuumed the screens to remove dust build-up. I referenced the manual and watched a YouTube video on how to dismantle the Fantastic Fans on the inside so I could thoroughly wash the blades and screens. Wow – amazing how much better they look debugged and dust-free! I also went through every storage bin and weeded out items we did not need to keep hauling around – accomplishing a little re-organizing as I worked. 😊 I have decided to create an Excel sheet listing each storage location in the trailer and exactly what is housed there. While going through this process, we are finding stuff that we had misplaced or thought we lost!
Once the inside inspection and repair work was completed to our satisfaction, we moved to the exterior. Jim started on the roof of the Airstream – washing and inspecting all seals and caulking along the way. I was checking for any noticeable leaks on the interior while he washed and noticed a wet spot underneath the inside trim of the skylight. We realized that the larger, concentrated amount of water from washing the roof was causing a small leak around the skylight. With just a normal rain, there was no leak. Jim noticed the caulk appeared to need replacing and while checking out the skylight itself, he saw some small cracks around the screw holes. We decided this would be the year to replace the old skylight. It was clearly disintegrating on the inside as well when we removed the inside trim to inspect it from that angle. I researched replacement skylights on the Airstream Forum (love, love, love that forum!) and found a company that specializes in Airstream replacements. Our new skylight is ordered and Jim will have to replace it at some point this summer while I’m in Maine. It will not be delivered before we leave unfortunately. In the meantime, he is going to beef up the caulking around the skylight to prevent any more leakage until the new one is in place.
What’s left? We need to fix the slide on the sofa drawer and wash and wax the outside of the trailer. And then, we should be good to go!! 😊
“Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.” – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.
As I take my daily walks on the Vermont gravel roads that define my route, I purposely try to plan my direction of travel to take advantage of the sun. I relish in the warmth that the spring sun generates, and cringe when I hit a shaded, tree-lined stretch of road. I love that I do not have to pile on layers of clothing just to take a stroll! Of course, there is the mud to navigate. 😉
With the change of the season this year from winter to spring, I’ve been reflecting on how my life has transformed in the past 20 – 30 years. The nucleus of my life used to change with each season. When you’re work is driven by and dependent on the weather, there’s a certain reverence for the beginning of each season. I used to design and install gardens. Each season brought new goals and priorities and gave structure to my life. I loved the diversity these seasonal rhythms brought to my existence. It energized me. Rather than enter winter each year with a sense of dread, I looked forward to this seasonal break from hard work and long hours. Winter was a time to relax, plan and prepare for spring.
When I stopped landscape gardening, the seasonal pattern of change I loved was disrupted. I adapted to that change by embracing the patterns of life that come from raising children. These were seasonal in nature as well and just as rewarding – school year activities, extended summer vacation, seasonal sports and activities, vegetable gardening and harvesting, maple sugaring.
For a few years, I misplaced the thrill that comes with the changing seasons. I was traveling long distances to work, had given up gardening for lack of time and energy, the kids were out of school and on their own and, gradually, I realized I had nothing clearly marking a distinction between the seasons. I lost the treasured yearly rhythms I had become accustomed to throughout my adulthood. I enjoyed that quarterly variation in my routine and the energy that it provided me.
When I decided on a lifestyle change and embraced workamping, I think I was subconsciously seeking to bring the excitement of seasonal rhythms back in my life. Workampers are constantly on the move depending on the season – where we work in the summer, where we choose to spend the winter, and what to do during the transition between those two seasons. My husband and I are not full-time RVers yet, so our workamping seasonal rhythms are not yet totally flushed out. We are slowly but steadily making progress towards this end.
As this long, challenging winter comes to a close, I am once again awakening and feeling the renewed energy and excitement that comes with the changing seasons. I’m enthusiastic about returning to Acadia National Park in April for the season, and all the organization that accompanies this move. Life is good!
I thought I’d share some of my favorite images from this winter and early spring in Vermont. Enjoy! While the snow is beautiful, I’m eager to be heading back to Mount Desert Island to greet the unfolding of spring in this beautiful habitat.
Lake Champlain along the Burlington Waterfront
March Full Moon on “Flint Hill”
Daily Walks on Roads and Snowmobile Trails
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’ And when they wake up in the summer, Kitty, they dress themselves all in green, and dance about–whenever the wind blows.” Lewis Carol, “Through the Looking Glass”
My plan when I jumped into pre-retirement three years ago to become a workamper and traveler was to never ever spend another winter in Vermont. So much for plans. Last winter, I needed to stay within the state for cataract surgery. This winter, several unexpected occurrences collided and we made the decision to park the Airstream for yet another winter. My first week back in Vermont this winter (after a couple of extended stays in PA) I sulked. To be honest, I did not want to be here – especially given the record snowfalls and cold temperatures that characterize the 2019 Vermont winter. It took me several days to pull myself together and accept my fate. An afternoon in the woods with good company – both human and animal – can make all the difference!
Spending time at home this winter and dreaming of my future summer workamping position, I could take pleasure in finding things to occupy my time. It’s all about attitude. It did not take me long to mount a significant rally from my self-imposed doldrums (with special thanks to Huck and Hazel!) and devise a “to-do” list of chores. The tasks I conjured up run the gamut between practical undertakings and entertaining crafts. If you read my last post, I hinted at some of this winter’s past times. I’ll expand on several of the most rewarding to date.
Whenever I’m home for an extended period (whether by choice or necessity), I take the time to do some deep cleaning. I travel from room to room assessing what needs attention and prioritize what I will tackle first. In the kitchen, my most recent project was presented to me by necessity. The igniter in our gas oven has been acting up for quite some time. When starting the oven, the electronic ignition was taking upwards of 15 -20 minutes to actually ignite and start the incremental climb to the desired temperature. It was only a matter of time before it would not light at all. I knew the problem was relatively easy to solve – order a new igniter and install it. My son had replaced it once before about 8 years ago. I had been putting it off for over a year and now was the time to address the problem. My husband removed the old igniter so I could compare it to what I was ordering online. Since we had to wait several days for delivery, I decided to deep clean the entire range while it was apart for repair. I even completely disassembled the oven door and cleaned both inside and outside glass panels. Amazing! I can now check the status of items cooking in the oven without opening the door and when I select an oven temperature and press Bake – it actually lights immediately! Simple pleasures…
With that chore complete, I moved on to activities that I consider to be a tad more fun. Last summer, while I was away working in Acadia, our town art cooperative organized a community “barn quilt” project. Check out the website for a peek at the “barn quilting” craze. If I had been in town over the summer, I would have participated in this community enterprise with my fellow local creative folks. Better late than never! I decided to paint a barn quilt independently this winter and register it online with the local barn quilt trail. It’s been fun to choose a pattern, gather the materials and paint the panel. I’m now in the painting stage – check my next post for the completed panel.
In keeping with the quilt theme, I learned just recently that my South Carolina niece and her husband are expecting their first child. I had a partially completed baby quilt top that I had started assembling several years ago for a soon-to-be-born nephew. I abandoned the project when it was apparent the child would be in elementary school before the quilt was complete! Since I have been trying to sort through and finish all my in-progress craft projects while stationary here at home, this was perfect timing! I love the pinwheel pattern and train engine theme I chose for this quilt, not to mention the brightly-colored, batik fabrics. The quilt top was finished last week and dropped off in Barre just a couple of days ago to be machine quilted.
What else am I up to? I was desperately in need of an Airstream fix. So, we traveled to my son’s house in NH for a visit and a mid-winter check of my beloved Airstream. As a result of that visit, I now have a substantial list of items to order for the trailer and re-modeling ideas to plan. Nothing major – just fun interior decorating upgrades.
I continue to organize house projects including de-cluttering. Translation: I come up with things that need fixed or re-modeled and “persuade” my husband to prioritize these jobs and complete them. Depending on the project, I am either an active participant or a scrutinizing supervisor! 😉 Happily, we are still on speaking terms so I deduce from this that there’s been a healthy balance between doer and overseer! The winter’s productivity report includes: the installation of a new stainless-steel chimney liner, beefed up insulation in the attic and around all exterior doors and some re-modeling in the bathroom.
I have a confession to make as well. We finally decided to part with the meager monthly fee necessary to join Netflix – expanding our horizon beyond the free Amazon Prime movie choices. Like I said earlier, it’s been a long winter! We’ve enjoyed the movies ‘The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society’ and ‘The Pianist’ so far, as well as starting on the series ‘Rebellion.’ Recommendations for further viewing pleasure are welcome.
Hanging out in the frigid tundra of Vermont this winter has been a challenge. But, I’ve persevered and have been defiantly marching out into the deep freeze for my daily walk. I must admit Vermont winters possess a beauty all their own and I need to savor the experience while I’m here! I found a quote by William Arthur Ward that sums up my conversion this winter from cantankerous bore to cheerful sage:
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
My last blog post was written way back in October as I was winding down my seasonal position as a fee collection park ranger in Acadia National Park. I have not been totally neglecting my blog however! After traveling home to Vermont in November, I started critically evaluating my website and decided it was time for a change. Since then, I’ve been busy working behind-the-scenes transferring my site to a different WordPress theme.
The change allowed me to add a photography portfolio section and highlight various older blog posts (by category) on my home page. The home page no longer serves as the “blog” page. Instead, the home page layout allows me to spotlight other pages within my site giving me more flexibility and creativity with content. It has been a 3-month process. Switching themes on an established site is not for the faint of heart!
I started by researching and reviewing a host of potential themes and lay-outs available with my WorkPress plan. Once the best alternative was chosen, I re-worked some existing pages while also building a new portfolio page. The portfolio page was a challenge and I’m still not sure I have it constructed exactly as I’d like. I could have easily spent several more months deciding on how to build the portfolio page and, well, enough was enough. It was time to publish. As I learn more about what I can do with the portfolio options, I’ll make changes. The site is always a work-in-progress! When it came time to actually pull the plug on the old theme, I delayed publishing the update for a couple of weeks. I was really nervous – mostly about how the new theme would transfer my existing data and how much I would need to adjust it after the changeover.
I’m pleased with the results. I had to submerse myself in several WordPress tutorials to tweak different areas after the switch-over and learned a bit of CSS stylesheet code along the way! Since I enjoy the challenge of working with code (and I’m a tad rusty), I found this to be fun as well as rewarding. I altered backgrounds and fonts to tailor the appearance of the site and give it some individuality. Over time, the site will improve with some additional custom coding as I grow and learn new possibilities. I am still trying to figure out how to modify some fonts – particularly my photo captions – which are not as legible as my previous theme’s text. I’ll continue to fine-tune different aspects of the overall look, feel and content of the website for some time but the backbone of the site is complete.
Some of the sights of my past several months!
ROCK FORD PLANTATION IN LANCASTER COUNTY CENTRAL PARK
NORTHWEST LANCASTER COUNTY RIVER TRAIL
LONGWOOD GARDENS – WHERE ELSE WOULD MY FAVORITE HAUNT BE!
The call of the loon
Climbs through the rainbow valley
Finding me trail side.
With my time at Acadia National Park ending shortly, my time off is now filled with a sense of urgency. It’s the same feeling one experiences on that last day of vacation. I have grown to love the feel and sound of Acadia. I’m minutes from the ocean cliffs and steep, rocky mountain summits. How could one feel anything but blessed to have had the opportunity to enjoy close to six months here on this island paradise?! Running down my bucket list for Acadia, I planned my recent days off meticulously. I identified where I was most likely to see sweeping vistas of fall color as my first priority. And then, I organized my time on “Sunday” to catch a ride on the Margaret Todd schooner out of Bar Harbor and tour Frenchman Bay.
I planned a couple of hikes to kick off my free time. On Sunday after work, I enjoyed an early evening trek to the summit of Gorham Mountain and caught a pre-sunset vista filled with exploding Fall color.
On my “Saturday,” the weather forecast called for partly cloudy skies which I thought would be ideal for photographing fall color. There is a small, out-of-the-way knoll above Eagle Lake called Connors Nubble. I’ve never ventured to this summit so it became my destination. Planning my route carefully, I chose to walk some trails I have not traveled and complete a loop that brought me over North Bubble – another summit I’ve missed to date. I parked on the loop road just northwest of the Jordan Pond boat launch parking area. There is a trail from here leading down to the Jordan Pond Path. I hiked around Jordan Pond, picked up the Jordan Pond Carry Path to the carriage road around Eagle Lake. From there, I headed towards the east and caught up with the short, steep scramble up to Connors Nubble.
Backtracking down to the carriage road, I crossed over and climbed the trail to the summit of North Bubble. The views of Jordan Pond were spectacular!
I traversed from there over to the South Bubble summit for some awesome shots of Bubble Rock against a stunning backdrop of flaming colors.
Dropping back down to Jordan Pond from Bubble Rock, I was able to snare some great shots from the Jordan Pond Trail.
The final day has arrived! My 30 day photographic journey has come to an end and it has been a great experiment and an enlightening learning experience. I was hoping that today’s photo would be the best of the best but, of course, we cannot always produce under such pressure! I did take a drive over to Otter Point area after work and walk along the coast. It was a crisp, sunny evening and the surf was good. I think it is only fitting that my photo today is a quintessential example of the Maine coast.
It was a beautiful evening as the sun was setting. The colors were enhanced with the setting sun and the waves were especially playful as the tide was going out.
The carriage road around Witch Hole Pond is a nice 3+ mile loop that I enjoy walking in the early evening. I headed out with both my Nikon camera and my Canon since I was unsure what to expect. I wanted all my options. My photo of the day is a bit uncharacteristic for me. I have not been focusing too much on wildlife photography this summer.
About half-way through my walk, feeling less than inspired, I suddenly heard the familiar sound of a woodpecker. I stopped, listened and zeroed in on a female Hairy Woodpecker upside-down on a branch just to the side of the carriage road. I shot the first photo with my Canon, and then my battery died! (Seems odd since I had just put a newly charged battery in the camera – hmmm – something to investigate!) As I was switching cameras, I saw a flash of flying feathers (how’s that for alliteration!) and the male Hairy Woodpecker crossed my line of vision and landed in a near-by tree. The photo I shot of him was with my Nikon. I did have to crop the photo a bit to bring him in closer since my Nikon lens only extends to 120mm. Neither photograph is as focused as I would like but those darn birds just do not sit still and pose!
Another dreary day on Mount Desert Island but I made the most of it before work. I decided to dust off my Canon camera with the 55-250 lens so I could get some different shots today along the coast. I did not have time to venture too far on foot. It’s been awhile since I used this camera and it took me some time to adjust to different locations of the dials and buttons! I chose the shot I took of the golden rod along the path to the ocean for my photo of the day. The contrast between the deep yellow flowers and the texture of the tree trunk caught my eye. I believe this is Solidago rugosa – Rough-stemmed Goldenrod.
Since it was too wet to climb down over the rocks, with my telephoto lens I was able to capture some gulls resting high and dry above the churning water.
And, a lone lobster boat was out making the rounds…..
My day has been full with work obligations so I have decided to choose a photograph from another day during my 30 day experiment – so not totally out of line! I am particularly fond of photographing plants since that was my focus for many years as a landscape designer. As I’ve mentioned before, Thuya Gardens is one of my favorite locations on the island. During my last visit there, I spent some time communing with an Acer griseum planted in the garden. I have always been enamored with this small ornamental tree. It was a plant that we grew in our small nursery in Pennsylvania. I cannot resist the delicate trifoliate leaves and the exfoliating, cinnamon-colored bark!
Last night we had some torrential rain and windy gusts. It kept me awake until close to morning. I knew I would have to get out early for a photo shoot today or not at all. Luckily, the rain had subsided by morning. I could hear the surf pounding against the rocks as I exited my trailer. And, it was foggy. With little time before work, I managed to get down to the shoreline and capture a very “foggy” coastline. While it’s not the most interesting photograph I’ve taken, it does convey the mood of the morning.