Call it Victorian, if you must

By the time of the Civil War, Bangor as in Maine was the world’s leading lumber port. Some of that wealth is reflected in the proud Second Empire, Greek Revival, and Federal style homes that punctuate the Broadway Historic District and elsewhere through the city.

My elder daughter would find these to be models for her annual gingerbread houses.

Meanwhile, do any of them capture your imagination?

And you wonder where Stephen King got his inspiration?

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?


A few islands in comparison

Islands come in all shapes and sizes, and even that can change dramatically with the tides. Now that I’m living on one, I’m really beginning to appreciate their variety. Some you can drive to or from, while others require a ferry or even an airplane. The better-known ones seem to be vacation or travel destinations.

Here’s a sampling, starting with home.

  1. Eastport, Maine, including Moose, Treat, Carlow, Matthews, and a few more: 3.6 square miles (12.3 with water)
  2. Manhattan: 22.7 square miles
  3. Staten: 58.5 square miles
  4. Martha’s Vineyard: 96 square miles
  5. Nantucket: 48 square miles
  6. Grand Manan, New Brunswick: 55 square miles (198.4 with water), but one side is a 20-mile wall of tall bluffs – the same length as Martha’s Vineyard.
  7. Sanibel, Florida: 16.1 square miles
  8. Mount Desert, Maine (home of Acadia National Park): 108 square miles
  9. Santa Catalina, California: 75 square miles
  10. San Juan, Washington: 55 square miles

Care to tell us about others?


Not all firewood provides the proper heat

Living in places where firewood is readily available – unlike, say, Manhattan or the Arctic Circle – has made it relatively affordable to heat by a wood-burning stove, at least when we’ve had one. (Let me repeat, it’s high on our renovations and home improvement list.)

OK, my Eagle Scout training left me quite aware that green wood – that is, freshly cut – burns inefficiently, unlike wood that’s had time for the sap and related moisture to dry out. That said, here are some other points.

  1. Seasoning can take as little as six months, though old-timers prefer at least a full year. Or more, if stacked in a way that allows sufficient circulation to avoid rot and fungus.
  2. Softwoods – generally conifers like pine, juniper, spruce, and cedar but also including poplars – ignite easily and burn hot, but they don’t blaze long. They also have a lot of creosote, which will need to be cleaned from the chimney as a housefire hazard.
  3. Hardwoods – maple, oak, hickory, ash, and birch – are denser and burn slower and longer, and while they release less immediate heat, there’s also less smoke and they add up as a layer of radiantly hot coals.
  4. All firewood has creosote, so annual chimney cleaning is recommended. Some sources say every two cords. Chimney fires are especially vicious.
  5. In colonial New England, a house typically required 40 cords or more of firewood a year. Imagine cutting, splitting, and stacking all that – even before bringing it indoors.
  6. Salvaged wood – such as lumber, poles, and fencing – often contain preservatives that release hazardous vapors as they burn.
  7. Destructive insects and plant diseases can be spread when transporting firewood more than a few miles from its source. That’s why it’s illegal to import firewood into Maine. Now I’m wondering about the guys from Maine who delivered to our house in New Hampshire.
  8. A cord is a stack 4-by-4-by-8 feet of standard 16-inch wood. Many stoves, though, require a shorter log.
  9. Do you really get a full cord when it’s delivered? I’ll spare you some old jokes.
  10. Favorite woods include apple and tamarack/larch, both for their aroma and a clean burn that leaves little ash.

As for air pollution? I really don’t want to go there. It could be a Tendril all its own, once we find the right tech geek to sift through the varied reports.


We’re welcoming the CBC

Longtime regulars to the Red Barn know that I love radio, especially when it involves classical music. Look, I was an avid listener to “educational stations” even before National Public Radio emerged, dialing in marginal ten-watt FM signals from Antioch College or the AM daylight offerings of WOSU from Ohio State University, both of them static laden. And then there was WJR in Detroit, a high-power, clear-channel voice with its own huge staff that included Karl Haas and his “Adventures in Good Music” hour in the morning as well as the Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, unless those came during a Redwings hockey game.

Later, living in the interior desert of Washington state, I relied on nighttime AM broadcasts from San Francisco and Calgary, Alberta, not all of it classical. I do remember the Canadian cohosts of one country music show expressing their amazement after a visit to Nashville that folks down there really did speak with “those” accents.

As for what I was saying about static? You came to live with it as part of the show.

Flash ahead, then, to today, when I’m living at the easternmost fringe of the USA. Most of my listening has come from streaming non-commercial stations in Boston and New York or Maine Public Classical. And then, for Christmas, my family gifted me with a Bose sound system to replace my broken components stereo.

As I loaded its radio presets, my otherwise savvy elder daughter confessed her ignorance of AM radio. It ain’t what was, for sure, no matter how much I used to fume at the static resulting when elderly cars came down the street.

Two of the six FM stations I’ve set the Bose to are Canadian Broadcasting Corporation outlets in St. John, New Brunswick, a distance up Fundy Bay from us. I am surprised how clearly their signals come in.

Like National Public Radio in the United States, the CBC is publicly funded and non-commercial. Its main network is primarily news, public affairs, and other talk, while a second is all-music, including classical during the daytime hours.

We’re finding both channels to be refreshing and exceptionally well done.

New York and Washington aren’t the center of their news coverage, for one thing. And the music includes a hefty number of Canadian voices, including a program of contemporary Indigenous music that follows the Metropolitan Opera on Saturdays – the latter with its own host working around what we get in the U.S.

Well, as announcers used to say on TV and radio during the station breaks, “Please stay tuned.”

And we will. There are many varied tastes in this household to match.