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Sugarhouses across the state open this weekend for Maine Maple Sunday!

From the Dept of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry:

March 21, 2016

For more information, contact: Samantha Howard at 207-287-7620mainemaplesunday-2016

Commissioner Whitcomb formally announces adoption of international grading system for maple syrup to promote the industry

AUGUSTA – Commissioner Walt Whitcomb today formally announced that Maine has adopted the international grading system for maple syrup. His notification, required for adoption of this international standard to take effect, comes in advance of this year’s Maine Maple Sunday, held Sunday, March 27, 2016. Most Maine producers have already implemented the voluntary standards in hopes of providing consumers with a better understanding of the natural product they are buying.

Maple Sunday is held annually, every fourth Sunday of the month. Participating sugarhouses will be open for visitors to enjoy freshly made maple syrup and candy, demonstrations of syrup production, sugarbush tours and a variety of other family activities.

Governor Paul R. LePage recently highlighted maple tapping season with Maine Maple producers on the Blaine House lawn by following an annual tradition: the tapping of a maple tree. The Governor recognized the economic contributions of Maine’s maple syrup industry and potential for continued growth.

“Maine’s maple industry contributes an estimated $48.7 million to the Maine economy,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “That includes a direct contribution of $27.7 million and multiplier effects. The Maine maple industry is working hard to realize its potential for creating more jobs, business opportunities and locally-produced products valued by consumers.”

The voluntary standards announced by Commissioner Whitcomb are designed to match those used by other countries in order to give consumers standardized information for selecting maple syrup. It is in response to a 2010 petition from the International Maple Syrup Institute, an organization of producers in the United States and Canada.

“The new system, utilized by most Maine producers, combines 4-5 different systems into one standard that is easier for consumers to follow,” said Whitcomb. “Customers benefit from a system that more accurately portrays what they are buying and how it tastes. Retailers can also more easily choose the grades they want to stock based on customer preferences.”

Maine Maple Statistics:

  • 545,000 gallons were produced last year, worth $17.4 million
  • Maine’s industry has an annual statewide economic contribution, including multiplier effects, of an estimated $48.7 million in output, 805 full-and part-time jobs, and $25.1 million in labor income
  • Maine has the third largest syrup industry in this country. Maine has the largest maple producing county in the country – Somerset County
  • Maine has around 1.4 million taps

Some sugarhouses will hold events on both Saturday and Sunday. For a list and map of participating sugarhouses, visit the Maine Maple Producers website: http://www.mainemapleproducers.com/

For more information about the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, go to: http://www.maine.gov/dacf

IFW Commissioner Opens Fishing Season Two Weeks Early

From The Dept of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Press Office:

DIFW Shield smallFor Immediate Release: March 16, 2016

Effective tomorrow, Thursday, March 17, the 2016 Open Water fishing season will begin, two weeks earlier than usual, per an amended rule by the Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The amended regulation allows bodies of water that were closed to open water fishing until April 1, 2016 to become open to open water fishing effective March 17, 2016.

Anglers throughout the state may now get a chance to enjoy the early spring by fishing on their favorite waterway earlier than usual.

Many lakes in southern and even central Maine are completely ice free. The lower than average snowfall also means that rivers and streams are at low springtime flow levels, making for easier fishing.

Anglers are likely to find more fish available in waters that were stocked last fall. Poor ice conditions meant less time for ice fishing, leaving many trout and salmon that normally would have been caught in the winter still there for spring anglers.

The early open water fishing season does not apply to waters with special season opening dates starting after April 1, 2016. This rule does not close any body of water currently open to ice fishing or open any water to ice fishing that is currently closed to ice fishing.

In addition, all waters with S-10 and “CO” designations will also be open to fishing. All other S-codes, tackle restrictions, daily bag, possession and length limits still apply as listed.

If you are fishing from a boat, the Maine Warden Service is urging boaters to wear their lifejackets. Prolonged immersion in cold water can kill, and wearing a life jacket can greatly increase your survival chances if you are in the water unexpectedly.

The beginning of the open water season also means that the department stocking trucks will be busy. The department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife begins an ambitious stocking program in mid-April and by the time ice starts to cover lakes in the fall, over 1.2 million fish will have been stocked in waterways across the state.

If you haven’t purchased your license yet, please visit www.mefishwildlife.com to purchase your license any time of the day, any day of the week

Please be sure to check the 2016 fishing law book for regulations specific to the water you wish to fish.

Ruffed Grouse are drumming

It’s about a month early here in Maine to start seeing and hearing the sights and sounds of spring. But along the ridge, inexplicably, it’s happening.

This sound in particular is one my of favorites, the visual even more stunning….

February 14th – Pick your Holiday!

Content Warning: Some readers may find this content humorous; others, not so much.

 

 

February 14th has arrivedFerris-wheel and I’ve certainly been eagerly awaiting it. My anticipation of this holiday isn’t something I’ve normally made known publicly, lest it tarnish my outdoorsy (self) image. But in this case, I just can’t contain my excitement. That’s right; I’m talking about National Ferris Wheel Day!

While there doesn’t seem to be any verifiable presidential proclamation or congressional record to justify the use of the term “National”, I say we leave well enough alone and not nitpick. After all, if it’s on the internet it must be true.

According to Gone-To-Pott.com, we are encouraged to “take a ride on a Ferris wheel and remember how fun it is to be up high while the wind blows over your face.”

Who can resist the thrill of being 200 feet in the air, artic wind blowing through your hair, face as red as a Macintosh apple in arguably the coldest month in Maine? Me, that’s who. Maybe I should celebrate a more traditional holiday such as…The League of Women Voters Day!Carrie_Chapman_Catt

On February 14th, 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt founded the LWV to help women take a larger role in public affairs after winning the right to vote.  Ms. Chapman Catt would be proud I’m sure of the League’s self-described “non-partisan” policy positions and lobbying efforts on behalf of government controlled healthcare, abortion rights, global climate change and gun control. These are all efforts that a blue collared, God fearing, old fashioned, red necked country boy like me can get behind, right? As Waylon Jennings said….Wrong.

Lucky for me, it just also happens to be National Have a Heart Day! According to Giftypedia.com, National Have a Heart Day “helps promote awareness of our food choices so as to get or maintain a healthy heart.” Who doesn’t want a healthy heart? This may be the holiday I’m looking for.

The Center for Disease Control advises us that not only what we choose to eat, but how much of it we eat is very important for heart health. Sample portion recommendations for pasta should be no larger than the size of a hockey puck and meat portions no larger than a deck of cards. Wait a minute, that can’t be right.

Ice_hockey_puckThe CDC also notes that some foods that are ideal for healthy hearts include: flax seed, black beans and soy. Nowhere on the list do I see Buffalo wings dripping in Frank’s Red Hot sauce, Marlboro Lights or vodka tonics. Sorry CDC, no can do. Moving on.

How do I celebrate “National Organ Donor Day”? I mean, I am still using them. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tells us why we should donate. According to the OrganDonor.gov website; “Because you may save up to 8 lives through organ donation and enhance many others through tissue donation.”  A most noble cause indeed, however, I suspect I wouldn’t be enhancing anybody’s’ tissue and these organs might not be what the folks at the hospital are looking for. See prior paragraph.

“National Race Relations Day!” is a sure fire winner for me. I mean, I absolutely love racing. Horse racing, snowmobile racing, dirt bike racing and relocating from the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, home to the famous Pocono International Raceway, my favorite type of racing: NASCAR stock car racing! Yes sir. I can definitely relate to racing.

Unfortunately, it seems I’ve misunderstood. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “Race Relations Day” is organized by The National Council of Churches “to recognize the importance of interracial relations and learning.” This is going to be a tough one living on the ridge. I’ll have to work on that. I think there are a couple of Canadians down the road, I wonder if that counts?

I think I’ll just pick out some beautiful flowers, buy my wife some of the finest chocolate money can buy (in Maine) and tell her how much I love her and how much she means to me. Maybe even get a greeting card that further espouses my sentiments. Now that would be holiday I can get behind.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day from The Ridge!

Ski and Snowshoe Trailer at Aroostook State Park

Get outdoors and try your hand (or feet as it were) at skiing and snowshoeing!

The Bureau of Parks and Lands will be pulling the Ski and Snowshoe Trailer into Aroostook State Park this month. This is a great opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy winter sports if you don’t own a ton of equipment for the whole family.

Date: February 22, 2016 – February 25, 2016aroostook

Time: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Location: Echo Lake, west off U.S. Route 1, south of Presque Isle
State Park: Aroostook
Event Type: Nature Exploration

Visit our Ski and Snowshoe Trailer daily, 10:00am – 2:00pm, from February 22 through February 25.

Equipment rental is FREE with regular park admission.

  • Cross-country skis
  • Snowshoes
  • Ice skates
  • Snow tubes
  • Sleds

Park staff will be on hand to assist and answer questions.

Contact Phone: (207) 768-8341
Website: http://www.maine.gov/aroostook
Cost: Free with park admission: $1.00 for ages 5-11, $3.00 for Maine residents ages 12-64, $4.00 for non-residents ages 12-64, $1.00 for non-residents 65 and older; persons under 5 and Maine residents 65 and older are free.

Fishing For Togue In Deep Water? Know these tips if you plan to release them…

By IFW Fisheries Biologist Kevin Dunham

Togue and other bottom-dwelling fish often have expanded swim bladders after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. This is known as barotrauma, usually when they are caught from water deeper than 30 feet.  Barotrauma is caused by the rapid expansion of gases in the swim bladder and other tissues as fish are retrieved to the surface.

When fishing near or on the bottom, try to bring your fish to the surface slowly to allow it time to expel gases built-up from water pressure changes.barotrauma

If a fish has a normal-sized swim bladder while it is swimming 60 feet below the surface, its swim bladder could double, even triple, as a fisherman gives it a quick trip to the surface.

A ballooning swim bladder is a non-issue if the fish will be kept.  If it’s a catch-and-release kind of fish, however, its life is in jeopardy.  With the equivalent of a beach ball in its gut the fish can’t swim back down.

The first thing is to understand the signs of a fish struggling with barotrauma, or “pressure” trauma.  The physical signs of barotrauma are:

  • Bloated abdominal area,
  • Bulging eyes,
  • Balloon-like tissue protruding from the mouth or other areas of the body (sometimes).

Sometimes lake trout can be gently squeezed to help force gas out of the swim bladder.  Gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to remove air from the bladder.  Fish suffering from barotrauma can survive if released properly and within two minutes of surfacing.

Froze up!

By John Floyd

Winter is most certainly here on The Ridge.  With a foot or better of snowpack on the ground and daily temperatures struggling to reach double digits, Old Man Winter snuck up on me this morning and gave me a friendly kick in the rear end.

“Hope you didn’t need water this morning, Johnny!” he said, as I turned the kitchen faucet on. Nothing. Not even a drip. We were, as my dad would like to say, froze up.

My wife asked, “Do you think the bulb blew out in the well house?” Sudden fear gripped me as I realized I hadn’t turned the light back on after an unseasonably warm 20 degree afternoon several days ago. We watch every bit of energy we use, Maine’s soaring electricity costs being a constant challenge in a rural area.

DSC_0015The well house is a smallish structure roughly four feet square across the driveway and about fifty feet from the cabin. It houses our above ground jet well pump and tank. While insulated when initially built, the field mice have had their run at it for years and the evidence of their nefarious activities litters the floor from time to time.

In addition to insulating the structure, we use a single incandescent bulb in the secondary enclosure during the dead of winter to keep the well pump and lines from freezing. This isn’t the most desired solution I know, but when you live out here you just do what works.

And it does work, when you remember the light.

As I pulled my boots on, I ran through the possible scenarios. Where is the freeze up? Did the water line under the house freeze? If so, how can I get under there with 2 feet of frozen snow pack drifted up to the access door? Maybe it’s just the well pump frozen? If so, how am I going to thaw it out?

Lastly, the biggest and scariest question of them all; What if the pipe split from freezing? It’s one thing to get the freeze up thawed out. If that pipe or well head is damaged, I’m really going to be in trouble.

DSC_0021I headed into the shop in search of the Mr Heater. This marvelous invention is a must have out here in the Maine woods. It is a simple propane burner and igniter head that attaches right to a 20lb propane grill tank. I use it to heat small spaces outside on the property when I’m working, to warm the engine block of my diesel tractor in the winter and as back up heat source in the shop.

I grabbed the heater and headed to the well house figuring I’d hope for the best, that the well motor was frozen and all the lines were intact. I opened the secondary enclosure inside the house and peered in. No light on and the pressure gauge on the pump pegged to the red line.

I lit the heater and set it on the low setting. If the metal on the pump housing heats too rapidly it could crack. Similarly, if the water in the lines heats too rapidly the result is hot steam. That also can cause damage to the lines. I positioned the heater in a corner and closed the door.

Back inside the cabin, my wife and I opened some faucets and crossed our fingers. Opening the faucets would help the water expand as the freeze up melted. We still didn’t know if the freeze was all the way through the lines, so it seemed a good idea to be safe. We settled by the wood stove, thankful it was a Sunday and wondering when and if the water would return.

As I ran through my mental check list of supplies I might need and various repairs I might need to make, the tell tale whoosh of running water came from the bathroom faucet. Only twenty minutes had passed. We had water!

While happy to have running water again, I was cautiously optimistic. I still had to check the lines and pump to see if there was any damage or leaks. Back to the well house I went.

DSC_0016I checked the pump housing and lines inside the well house. No cracks or visible damage to the lines were present. I monitored the pressure gauge after the water pressure had built back up and the motor shut off. If there was a break or leak under the driveway or under the house, the pressure indicated on the gauge would slowly drop as the water leaked out. After 15 minutes I was satisfied we didn’t have any breaks. I turned off the heater and pulled the string for the well light.

As I walked through the front door, my wife was putting a fresh pot of coffee on for me. We looked at each other and grinned. We had gotten lucky this time.

 

Snowmobile Trail Fund Sticker now Available!

Release from Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry:

Snowmobile Trail Fund Sticker now Available!

Show your support for Maine’s snowmobile trail system by purchasing a Snowmobile Trail Fund Sticker.

Stickers are available for purchase:STF

  • Online at the IF&W store – Snowmobile Trail Fund
  • From snowmobile registration agents statewide
  • At time of or after snowmobile registration

Proceeds from each Trail Supporter sticker, less a $2 administrative charge, will be transferred directly to the Snowmobile Program to support the trail fund. The colorful stickers are available in three levels of support: $25, $50 and $100.

Free Snowmobile Weekends 2016

Headshot

By John Floyd

The Dept of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has announced two special weekends in 2016 to enhance opportunities for snowmobilers this winter.

The first, being hailed as the “Tri-State Snowmobile Weekend“, is scheduled for Jan 29-31. This weekend event enables full reciprocity for Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire riders. All currently registered machines may use the entire trail network throughout all three states without having to register in another state.

Mainers can explore the trails of Vermont & New Hampshire, while our neighbors may do the same here in the Pine Tree state.

The second weekend event is the “Maine & New Brunswick Free Trail Weekend“. This event runs Feb 12-14 and enables Maine snowmobilers to obtain a free 3 day trail permit for New Brunswick. Mainers must obtain the special permit here on www.nbfsc.com. You’ll still need a current Maine registration and personal PLPD insurance ($200,000.00 min)

As with the first weekend event, this is a reciprocal event for our neighbors to the north and east to explore Maine’s 14,000 miles of trails.

A safety message from IFW:DIFW Shield small

With the increased traffic anticipated during the reciprocal snowmobile weekends, we remind all riders to obey laws of prudent operation, do not drink and drive, and be mindful that this is a family sport, so please keep our trails safe. Pay extra close attention to ice conditions on all Maine waterways especially when travelling at night, and ride with caution. 


Snowmobilers should stay off roads, ride at a reasonable speed, use hand signals and ride to the right.

Resources and additional info:

Maine Snowmobile Registrations – https://www10.informe.org/ifw/atv-snow/

Maine Snowmobile Laws and Rules – http://www.eregulations.com/maine/atv/snowmobile-laws-and-rules/

Maine Snowmobile Association – http://www.mesnow.com/

New Brunswick’s Free Trail Permit Info-http://www.nbfsc.com/html/whatsnew/docs/FreePermitWeekend2016.pdf

 

The Hunt Is On..

Headshot

By John Floyd

I hit the skidder trail with a calm ease that belied my anticipation of the previous day. The cool, brisk October air in my lungs and the sun warming my way, I felt invigorated. The colors of the treetops exploded against the horizon. Reds, oranges and yellows a stark contrast to the deep blue sky.2012-09-03_13-36-02_632

The spruce and fir, with varying shades of green acted as referees in this riotous silence. The feel of the earth, the snap of a twig along the trail awakened my senses, long dulled by the humdrum of the daily grind.

I broke open my shotgun and dropped in the shells. I briefly remembered deciding on the 12 gauge, leaving my usual 20 gauge in the cabinet, my thoughts on the thick cover I’d be moving through and the bigger gun’s ability to bust through the edges of the wood line. I snapped the action closed, clicked on the safety and smiled. My grouse season has begun and the hunt was on.