Sprucewold Column: Batten down the hatches

Mon, 09/18/2023 - 11:15am

When all my grandparents were young in the 1890s, 1900s, 1910s, and 1920s, there were almost no trees on Sprucewold Hill, as on most of the peninsula the trees were cut for lumber and fuel, then when summer homes were built, for views. When my parents were kids in Boothbay Harbor, the 1930s and 1940s trees were back in Sprucewold, but not like today. When I was in high school in the 1960s and 1970s, you could still easily see the harbor from the Sprucewold Lodge flagpole, but not any more. The Boothbay Region Historical Society has photographs of bare hills surrounding the harbor from years past. As you travel around Sprucewold, you can see that the forest is made up of young trees. The deer easily hide in the trees that are proliferating too densely for healthy growth. We do have many big trees, but pine and fir trees have a limited lifespan, and once they reach high double digits in age, they start to die from within. In addition, in Sprucewold, all the trees grow on granite ledges and have little depth to plant their roots. Once one tree comes down, it weakens the root system of nearby trees. We fear storms with the big winds will cause us to lose another tree at the cabin. Every year at least one comes down over the winter, and we hold our breath to see if it hits our cabin or a neighbor’s cabin. Over the years, several have hit the cabin, but there has been damage only twice. Last winter, a tree snapped off thirty feet up and the remaining twenty-five feet of treetop missed the sewer pipe by mere inches when it hit the ground straight up! Interesting books to read about the complicated lives of trees: “Lab Girl” by Hope Jarhen, the NY Times says: “Does for botany what Oliver Sacks’s essays did for neurology, what Stephen Jay Gould’s writings did for paleontology.” And “Overstory” by Richard Powers won the Pulitzer in 2019, we read it in our book group. I highly recommend both.

Preparation took place as soon as weather reports of the storm were related. Anything that could blow around was secured, from chairs and tables to the wood pile and grills to plant pots and patio heaters, so they would not become a safety hazard. During the storm, power went out, but was quickly restored on our end of Crest Avenue. We had no need for the generator at our place, but others were not so lucky.  Trees have blown down on the hill, and we hope they didn't cause extensive damage. Boats were pulled out of the water, and dinghies secured to trees along the beach wall. A hinge on the ramp at the beach dock pulled away on one side, and the only boat left in the beach mooring field made it through the storm. We are so grateful to our sons-in-law for all their hard work getting ready for the storm.

Unbelievably, there are only a little over four weeks left of the 2023 season. Lots of fun activities to fit in before we close up for the year. The remaining agricultural fairs are: Farmington Fair from Sept. 17-24, Common Ground Fair from Sept. 21-30 in Unity, Cumberland County Fair from Sept. 24-30 in Cumberland Center, and the Fryeburg Fair from Oct. 1-8. 

We are in North Carolina this week visiting our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters. It has been very hot, but cool breezes yesterday and today make it feel like fall in New England. The sound of the cicadas mimic waves at the beach with the rise and fall of their choruses. In Sprucewold, the bracken has already turned brown and crispy. When we return, the foliage will begin to show its colors, and fall will arrive. Looking forward to autumn and all its beauty.