Off to Aroostook County

I was feeling a little down as Eastport turned into its annual ghost town. Cooped up, too, especially under the tedious revisions to the Dover history, even before seeing how much I still don’t know and will likely never know, even if I spent a month at the University of Massachusetts going back through the Quaker archives.

Then I realized I hadn’t been anywhere other than eastern Washington County since mid-April. Six months confined to this sliver of rocky coastline and piney interior. The largest city has only ten thousand population and has commercially suffered under the Covid border restrictions. So I decided to see something new and finally settled on Aroostook County, widely known simply as The County, and thus hit the road at 7:15 Monday morning and headed up U.S. 1 without a plan other than turning back around noon.

I can now tell you it’s four hours to Caribou and a lovely drive, some of it through long stretches of forest, others through the tidy farmlands of The County itself. Yes, tidy, unlike many of the rural residences in this state.

Remote Aroostook County is famed as potato farming country.

Turned out to be the perfect day. Sunny, foliage in its prime, little traffic, small roadside sheds selling new potatoes on the honor system. I really felt at home amid all the farmland wonder.

Feeling sated with the visual glory, I felt ready to head home. At Caribou, turned over to Fort Fairfield to follow U.S. 1A back to Mars Hill, and was surprised to find a yellow “share the road” sign with a horse carriage emblem. And sure enough, I found a large colony of Amish. I’ve missed them and Mennonites and Brethren since moving to New England, and this was exciting.

Amish families are finding a place here.

After passing one Amish farm and its bright red barn – yes, that seems to be the custom here, red next to the plain white farmhouse and laundry on the line – I noticed a small church and whipped around to take a closer look.

Never would have if a Friend hadn’t tweaked my interest by sharing something he found online.

The meetinghouse is one that escaped Silas Weeks’ research for his definitive book, too.

Afterward, I learned that one of our good friends was from Caribou, not further north as I’d thought. And then another was from Presque Isle.

So now I have a much better grasp of what folks are talking about when the say “The County.”

I should also mention I came home with 60 pounds of new potatoes from three different stands. Ten pounds for five dollars, three different varieties. Turns out they’re ones that didn’t pass the baggers’ standards, usually because of irregular shape or size, but that’s no problem for us. The skins of new potatoes are so soft and tasty – no need to peel them, even for mashed potatoes. You do need to unbag them, wash and inspect them, before storing. Otherwise, a few damaged ones can spread rot.

~*~

Next time I venture that far north, I plan to visit the entire solar system. Seriously. I caught a clue of it with a model of Saturn atop a pole beside U.S. 1 followed miles later by Neptune. Turns out all of the planets sit beside the road to Presque Isle, scaled in size and distance from the sun at the University of Maine branch campus. There really is a lot of emptiness in space.

One more thing to impress me.

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