Best to phone ahead before rolling the dice

As we’re learning around here in our village and surrounding rural setting, it’s often wise to call ahead before venturing forth.

Don’t assume a small business will be open, especially in the off-season when our population has sharply shrunk and business is slim. Look, it can be frustrating after driving an hour to a surrounding town only to find the door locked. Can’t blame them for taking a day or night off.

But then, when you dialed and got no answer, they just might have been too busy to pick up the phone, all three times you tried.

Add to this to our list of items made obsolescent in our lifetimes

Even before many folks switched to unlisted numbers, in part to evade obnoxious ding-a-ling solicitations, the annual telephone book began shrinking. The migration from landline to cell phones was apparently the final straw, along with Yellow Pages regulars who turned instead to website searches or FaceBook.

What was long a standard reference volume for local communities is now long gone.

When’s the last time you saw a phone book?


How to lose customers, chapter something or other

Perhaps you’ve called your auto dealer for a service appointment and been surprised to face a two- to three-week wait in the schedule. Yeah, yeah, blame it on the supply chain issues and the worker shortage.

Our nearest franchise has responded by limiting appointments to cars purchased there. Everyone else can be put on a waiting list, should a cancelation create an opening. Never mind that I’ve been a loyal customer for two years since moving from New Hampshire.

What miffs me is that when I bought my car before the opportunity for our relocation developed, my choice of the American-made brand was based on an awareness that it was the core of the only new-car dealer in Washington County. Its nearest competition is 2½ hours away or somewhere over in Canada.

I’ve been happy with the service department, even if it is a haul up the highway and back. Frankly, though, the car itself has left me wishing I’d stayed with Toyota.

Adding fuel to the fire is the coupons for discounts that show up in my inbox, sent from Detroit but applying only to the brand’s service departments.

Instead of encouraging me to buy my next vehicle there, I’m feeling ill will. In today’s business world, that’s not a good thing. You spend a lot on advertising to get a new customer. Maintaining an ongoing relationship is much cheaper.

As for those annoying “How are we doing” surveys that show up after an appointment, I do wish I’d get one now so I could say just how peeved I am.

The world’s most glorious sauerkraut

For most of my life, I never would have thought sauerkraut could rise any higher than maybe a gag-inducing edible in an obligatory sort of way. You know, like liver. Something in some households you might be required to eat on New Year’s Eve to assure a good 12 months ahead. Think of lutefisk (lye fish) in Nordic cultures as a parallel.

Well, my best friend’s parents, of good German Lutheran stock, made their own, but they also composted for their garden, and back in the ‘50s, that seemed pretty weird.

I am convinced that there are certain dishes that will never become acquired tastes to some or even many tongues. (Feel free to make nominations here.)

That said, imagine my surprise in recent decades in discovering the joys of fine Chinese cuisine, along with the shock of learning that the filling on those snappy eggrolls and spring rolls was essentially sauerkraut, just by another name.

Maybe that set up the moment of revelation.

Morse’s in Waldoboro.

First came some nibbles after an old Mainer made his annual pilgrimage, returning with 20 or 30 pounds or so.

The taste was sweet and tangy, even refreshing. I do like pickles, but these are in a class all their own. I mean, they’re glorious. OK, I had come to prefer coleslaw with a vinegar dressing more than the conventional creamy one, so maybe that had prepared me. (Not that I turn down either.)

That’s set up our own trips in the family, including one with me in the depths of a very snowy February. The road out of the village to the store seemed to take forever, I was sure we had taken a wrong turn somewhere, but then the small store appeared, and it offered more crocks of pickled traditions than just kraut. It also had a small but very tasty German restaurant, which appears to have fallen victim to Covid restrictions. All in all, a delight.

Upshot is, it’s a dish I’ve come to anticipate each winter from our own ten-pound or so purchase.

Morse’s is, in itself, a fascinating story of a family business that’s undergone some transformations but maintains a small niche in an increasingly monolithic food industry. I have no idea if you can find it anywhere near where you live, but then maybe that might inspire another entrepreneur to rise to the challenge. Bigger is not always better.

We have some heavy-duty shipping, too

While washing dishes one night shortly after moving to Eastport, I noticed strange lights between a neighbor’s house. So I went upstairs with my binoculars and still couldn’t make out much, other than it appeared to be a ship. Or maybe two. It definitely wasn’t one of our fishing boats. Here’s how one of the big freighters looks in daylight.

This ship sits at anchor while awaiting the harbor pilot to board and direct the critical final moves to the Eastport’s commercial terminal. I do have to wonder how the skipper can see anything ahead from the bridge so close to the stern.

The Breakwater downtown isn’t the only important pier in town. The Eastport Port Authority also operates the Estes Head Cargo Terminal around the curve to the south. The 55-acre, high-security site includes warehouses, an aerial conveyor, and two berths. It’s where the big barges and oceanic freighters pull in.

The cargo terminal from the water.
There are even tugboats.

It’s also the deepest natural harbor in the continental U.S., with the Breakwater close behind.

The name of the ship, its cargo, and its destination will be reported in the shipping activities log on page 3 of the next edition of the Quoddy Tides.

Most of the shipping these days is exports of wood pulp for paper production, though recent cargo has included delivery of giant blades for the wind farm electrical generators in Hancock County.  .

Seems a shame they can’t drum up more business, try as they might.



Some of the most successful farms around here are out on the water

As many fish stocks dwindle precariously, salmon farming and related aquaculture are hailed as a viable alternative.

Salmon pens at Broad Cove.

Young salmon are placed in the circular enclosures when they’re about six inches long, where they leap and splash under netting that protects them from eagles, osprey, cormorants, and gulls. In about two years, they grow to a harvestable size of about two feet and ten pounds. A specially designed vessel sucks the mature fish from their pens and its conveyor stream immediately cleans and guts them.

Lubec rises in the distance.

Cooke Aquaculture, based in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, manages 15 pens in Deep Cove and Broad Cove, operating from a former fertilizer plant on Estes Head. A feeding barge sits amid the pens, which house about 450,000 salmon. About one-third of the pens are left fallow at any time.

A pen like this can hold 25,000 fish. The netting protects the salmon from osprey, eagles, and other predators.

From our upstairs windows, we can see other salmon farms at Campobello Island across the channel.

As for recipes? I’ll often make mine as sashimi.


Is there a dry cleaner in the county?

Geographically, Sunrise County is one of the largest in New England – the county line is an hour-and-a-half drive away from where I live, unless you’re going to Canada – but there are a lot of things we don’t have.

There are only three traffic lights, for instance – all in Calais en route to the busy international border crossing.

So I was wondering, just in case, where the closest dry cleaner is. We have two laundromats, but say, what if I wanted to send my dress shirts out to be washed and pressed, as I did back when working in an office?

The answer, it turns out, is forget it.

This really is a do-it-yourself kind of place.

If you’re planning on visiting, be prepared.


Confessions of a booklover

Looking at my book purchases over the past few years, I’m finding that most of them are ebooks. The new paperbooks in my collection are mostly gifts, gratefully received, augmented by a few used volumes purchased online.

Cost is a factor, admittedly, but so is shelf space. We still have a thousand or more titles to cull from our collections before moving the remainder up here, and keeping them in storage ain’t cheap. My own practice of the past decade requires me to say adios to one copy every time I get a new one, and I find the swapping to be heart-rending. Books really are personal, and who ever wants to let go of a friend?

Among the harder aspects of putting our old house on the market was one we hadn’t anticipated. Our Realtor told us the bookshelves couldn’t be jammed, as ours were, but that buyers were entranced when shelves were only half full. We didn’t want to repulse them but, well, we had several walls to go through on that point.

That meant buying a lot of boxes from U-Haul to pack. Buy boxes? They stack better, for both transport and storage. Worth the price.


When it comes to how I’m now reading, I do find a distinction between ebooks and paper.

If it’s a page-turner being devoured quickly for pleasure or else an authority I’m using for background reference, I prefer digital. The digital search function’s very helpful, believe me – much better than relying on an index – and if I’m quoting something in a writing project, cut-and-paste beats keyboarding any day and is less likely to include typos. On the other hand, if the text requires slow reflection and digestion, traditional paper moves to the fore. Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living is a prime example, along with Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Poetry and The Art of Biblical Narrative.

Maybe the divide even comes down to whether it’s something I want to read hands-free or hands-on.


These also play into my considerations in my own publishing strategies.

As I looked to outlets for my big nonfiction project, Quaking Dover, I realized it was the kind of volume most readers would want to have in their hands or even wrap as a present.

It was one I’d want to place in bookstores and libraries, but that became a big hurdle.

If I put it the book up at Amazon’s KDP, the bookstores would back off. As for libraries? Dunno.

The alternatives I saw were prohibitively expensive for what would be a niche item, unless it magically took off on the charts, even as print-on-demand.

The plot thickened when my ebook haven, Smashwords, announced it was being absorbed by Draft2Digital. Yeah, the promises of no changes were there, but really?

Yet from what I’m seeing, maybe not. Maybe this is the big challenge to the Amazon juggernaut.

Upshot is, that’s where I’m planning to place my print version.