Lobster Bake Lady Slipper

There are 3,000 islands off the coast of Maine, however, not all of them are suited for low tide landings.  One that we love no matter what the tide, is in Merchant’s Row off of Stonington, Deer Ilse. It’s a small island, but with two beaches that allow for a leeward fire (in our fire pan) whether or not the wind is on the North or South side of the island.

Every time we explore this island, I ‘discover’ a different species of flora.  Every time.  This is the second year in a row that we’ve found a lone, regal Lady Slipper nestled in the woods with all of us snapping photos of it’s five blooms.  One more than last year.  The soft pink of the blooms are a shock amidst the green of the moss and low-lying foliage and such a delightful discovery.  Thank you to every camper who spends time on this island and only observes and makes photos of her, but doesn’t pick or dig.  Now, that’s good camping manners.

View of the ocean from the center of the island.
Her Lady’s Slipper with 5 blooms.

Happy to be out on the bay.

Walk Awaaaay From the Computer

Sometimes, no matter how mountainous the piles, no matter how voluminous the dust bunnies, no matter how numerous the emails, when a person opens the door to personally receive the mail from the mailman and feels not a blast of icy air but gentle warmth and gets a whiff of not brisk or crisp, but soft and dirt, they need to walk awaaay from the computer and go outside to play in the garden.



Then things like peas, swiss chard, spinach, mesclun, arugula and whatever else one grabs from the seed box will, like magic, begin to appear from the dark loam of the earth and become a meal or ten for a family or a boat.


I do believe that we will have fresh greens and vegetables even for our first sail this year.  In part this has to do with planning (and giving in to the impulse to get out in the garden all the while ignoring the piles that will still be there when I come back inside).  In part this is due to excellent husbands who help build cold frames.  Lastly, we must give a nod to Mother Nature who seems to not have any more snow in our future this spring.  I may have spoken too soon and you can blame me if snow arrives, but I with cautious optimism, think we just might be done.


Here, you can see four different season extenders.  In the foreground are milk jugs with the bottoms removed and then plunked in the ground over pea seeds.  In the background, from left to right is the angled cold frame, a hooped bed which will receive plastic over the hoops and an a-frame cold frame.  All work equally well.

Counting the days until my first garden greens of the season

Green! Its Green!

Radishes, spinach and lettuce seeds are all happily sprouting on the window sill in the kitchen where I can water them, love on them, enjoy them and talk to them.  The ground is still mostly covered with snow.  The skies are often gray but oddly bright with frequent white fluffy flakes drifting down.  And inside, green is growing.

spinach seedlings



I’ll use them as micro greens and will probably transfer many of them as starts into the mini-greenhouse out back.  As often happens, you can see the spinach seedlings are reaching for more light (I understand perfectly.)  All will need either to be trimmed or relocated to help them along, but for now, it’s a hopeful, happy symbol to have as I cook along in the kitchen.

The mini-greenhouse is now all set.  The plastic has been laid and three bags on potting soil added.  When I was out a couple of days ago to wipe snow off of the windows, the temperature was about 40 degrees under the glass.  A few hours later, when I returned to collect eggs from the hens, the temperature had risen to 60 degrees, even without much sun.  I’m still fascinated by how this works – simple science, I know.  I’ve set the plastic up so that its both a layer on the bottom and a extra layer on the top for those colder nights that are sure to still come.  Again, lettuce, spinach, radishes and the like will all go into the soil and hopefully by next week I’ll be reporting on their progress.

Growing Micro-Greens

Holy Moly Wood Chips!

I pulled into my driveway to the sight of this HUGE pile of wood chips!  These are for yet another garden expansion with the chips layered over newspaper or office paper to become the pathways in the free form beds.  Last year, we installed about 500 square feet of free form garden space which held all of the vegetables that are less attractive to wood chucks and their many relatives, therefore squashes, basil, leeks, onions, carrots and corn (although the raccoon population was well fed on the corn, the buggers).

I’ve now enticed Rebecca , our most excellent gardener who helps me when I’m out sailing, not to fear the words “expand the garden.”  She has now joined us on the dark side and is fully up for twice as much garden space as we put in last year.  This may have also had something to do with her supreme frustration with the mowed grass being blown directly into the free form beds she’s just weeded (just saying).  Paths joining the beds will take care of this perennial issue by only requiring mowing on the perimeter.  Happy me, happy Rebecca, more veggies, more fruit trees!

The wood chips, 10 yards in all, I’m told, were recycled from Rebecca’s property to make way for fruit trees there.  The wood from those Norway Maple trees, high in btu’s, will be our fire wood on the boat next summer.

Wood chips for the garden paths

More veggies!

Baby Chicks Arrive

The chicks are here!  The chicks are here!

Buff Orpington chicks

They came by mail, packed in a box no bigger than a shoe box. Seven downy Buff Orpington female chicks are now safely ensconced in a lobster crate in our bathroom with the door firmly shut to keep out Charlie, the cat.  My initial plan, one that decidedly did NOT include having them spend any time in the house, was to sneak them under a broody hen in the middle of the night, removing the eggs she was nesting on and introducing the baby chicks. Anyone who has ever had cute, tiny baby chicks in their house who have then grown into unruly, ungainly, dust- and chicken-poop-flinging teenagers can feel my pain when I say I’m determined that the chicks will not be in the house for long.

Irresistible to pick up

The intsy flaw in this plan is that, for the first year ever, I don’t have a broody hen.  I can’t tell you if it’s the cooler weather or the lack of a rooster (Fluffy the rooster died this winter) but none of these hens are feeling the mama urge.

I put my problem out to Twitter and a few people suggested either fake eggs or ping pong balls as an encouragement, thinking that someone is bound to think they are hers.  Having one child who saves, hoards and parses her holiday candy, I had some pastel, plastic Easter eggs still in the house into which I added some flour for weight.  I then taped them shut and put them in a nest.  This is what they thought of that idea…

Kicked 'em right out!

However, Plan b is now in place.  I have a lobster crate, a heat light, chick starter and reams of newspaper.  They will be protected from the other hens in the coop by the lobster crate while they stay warm under the heat lamp.  Once they have feathers and are eating regular feed, I’ll turn them loose with the rest of the flock.

Brooding about my chicks

Wilted Brie Salad

This recipe was inspired by Kerry Altiero, chef and co-owner of Café Miranda’s in Rockland, Maine.  If you haven’t eaten there yet, it’s a palate’s delight.

This is a perfect last minute meal for greens that you might find popping up in your garden (or under the cold frame).  If you don’t have time to make the pesto or the crostini, just skip it and buy both.  This salad also makes a great sit down appetizer for a dinner party.

Wilted Brie Salad
8 cups mesclun mix, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 oz. brie cheese, cut into four wedges

Preheat broiler.  Mix all ingredients except for the brie and divide evenly onto 4 plates.  Place wedge of brie on top of salad.  Place under broiler for 2 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

No longer looking for a quick dinner tonight

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Lobster bake – part 3; Lobster & Corn Pasta Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

One of the most important parts of our lobster bakes is to be aware of our surroundings. While we are on an island for our bake we operate under a Leave No Trace policy. The means whatever we take onto the island, we take off. Often we leave with more than we came with, as picking up litter while exploring an island is our contribution to leaving an island better than we found it. Our fires are built below the high tide line in a fire pan; five minutes after we've left an island, you can't tell we've been there.

While a beach is admittedly very nice scenery for this meal, it's not absolutely necessary. Your backyard could do very nicely. Should you choose to find a beach to celebrate your Maine lobsters, make sure that you have permission to be there and a fire permit if you need one. This could actually be an eventful dinner for your guests from out of state who are clamoring for not only their first taste of lobster, but their third and fourth.

Should you find yourself with leftover lobsters, I know it's hard to imagine, here is a light recipe for a lobster salad.

Lobster and Corn Pasta Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

To serves as a light dinner, double the Citrus Vinaigrette recipe and toss half of it with mixed greens to make a bed for the pasta salad.

4 cups cooked Farfalle (bowtie) pasta (about 3 cups uncooked)
3 cups cooked and coarsely chopped lobster meat
2 cups fresh corn kernels, about 4 ears
1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Citrus Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, lobster, corn, peppers, and onions. Whisk the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and toss with the lobster and pasta mixture. Cover and chill.

Serves 6-8

Anne Mahle

Maine Lobster Bake part 2 – S’Mores

The next important step for your backyard lobster bake is dessert. Once everyone has had their fill of lobster, the watermelon is sliced and the makings for S'mores are laid out. There's always a lively discussion over how to make the best S'more, and the proper way to roast a marshmallow.

We've tried these on the propane burner before and wouldn't you know, it's just not the same. Give it a miss unless you've got a campfire.

1/2 Hershey bar
1 full graham cracker, broken in half
2 marshmallows
Place the Hershey bar on top of one of the halves of graham cracker and move it close to the fire so the chocolate can get warm.

Place two marshmallows on a metal roasting stick (not driftwood) and slowly turn it over the hot coals until it becomes golden brown. It's important to take your time here as the impatient folks end up with a burnt marshmallow. Some poor souls actually like them this way – go figure.

Makes 1

Anne Mahle
Slowly roasting marshmallows

Maine Lobster Bake in Your Own Backyard – part 1

One of the highlights for many passengers on our windjammer is our traditional Maine Lobster Bake – a feature of all our weeklong and Maine Lighthouses & Lobster trips. It’s an all-you-can-eat feast with all the fixin’s. Seven lobsters eaten by one person in one sitting is the record (please do not try this at home). After anchoring near an undisturbed island in the early afternoon, the yawl boat (our launch and tugboat) ferries us ashore and we hop across granite rocks to the beach. Everyone wanders off in different directions – exploring inland, walking the shore, swimming – some even help set up for dinner. The crew has already rowed ashore and brought everything we need to the island and we all work to put the meal together for our guests.

A fire is lit below the high tide mark, corn is husked and various goodies are put out to tide us over until the lobster is ready. Once the fire is really going, the lobster pot, a huge steel tub, is filled with 2-3 inches of salt water and set on the fire to boil. While we wait for the water to come to a boil, several armloads of seaweed are gathered, being careful to leave some seaweed at each spot so that more can grow back in its place. Once the water is boiling we layer the lobsters, corn, mussels, and clams in the pot, cover it with a “lid” of seaweed, wait for it to come to a boil again, and rotate the pot (for even cooking on the fire). We then pull some of the seaweed aside and check to see that the lobster is done – when the outer shell is bright red and the two antennae pull out easily. At this point the pot is carried away from the fire, the seaweed is arranged on a flat rock, and everything is placed on the seaweed bed, ready to eat!


Come back tomorrow for the continuing story of a Maine lobster bake – windjammer style!

Maine Lobster Bake in Your Backyard

You’ll need to either make a roaring campfire or use a propane cooker on a tripod stand. It is also possible to use an outdoor grill to set the pot on, but make sure that the heat can get high enough even when the lid of the grill is open. You’ll also need a large pot with a steamer basket and lid in which to cook your lobsters. The size will vary, but for 8 people, 12 lobsters, a 36-quart pot will do.

12, 1 1/2 pound live Maine lobsters
2 pounds clams
2 pounds mussels
8 ears of corn
8 small whole onions, peeled
2 whole heads of garlic
1/2 cup butter, melted
juice of 1/2 lemon

Bring 2-3 inches of salted water to a rolling boil in the lobster pot with the steamer basket inserted. Add the lobsters, clams, mussels, corn, onions and garlic and cover for 20-25 minutes. While the lobsters are cooking, melt the butter with the lemon and keep warm. Lobsters are done when they are red all over and the antennae pull off easily. Remove the steamer basket and arrange your feast onto several platters and serve hot with the melted butter.

Serves 8-12

Anne Mahle
Waiting for the water to boil