Maine is the lobster capital of the world! (Well, Mainers believe that anyway.) But the recession has hit the market hard … very hard. So my thirteen this week is about the spiny creature of the sea–the lobster. I’m not sure if it will encourage you to have lobster at your family get-together, but at the very least, I hope it will give you food for thought. hee hee
1. Lobsters are part of the order of Crustaceans, which means, like insects, they have their skeleton on the outside.
2. Lobsters are generally a dark green to black color and turn red only after cooking. But sometimes nature “burps” out color variations.
Today’s blog has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with where I live. Aroostook County, Maine … potato country.
This is the time of year when everyone’s focus is on the weather and the fields. Months ago, the potatoes were growing in the sun. The scenery was beautiful.
But a few weeks ago the farmers began killing off the top plant of the potato (since it’s a tuber grown in the dirt) which allowed the skin of the potatoes to harden. (In days before chemicals they let nature and a hard frost do this job for them.)
On Friday all high schools in Aroostook County will close for three weeks allowing the students the opportunity to help harvest the potato crop. Really.
I didn’t grow up here and I hear stories of the years before automation that nearly every business closed and families went into the fields to harvest potatoes by hand. (Check out the picture below) Diggers tilled the potatoes to the surface. Then workers would pick them by hand, filling up the basket with a handle and transferring the load to the larger barrel. A card with a number was shoved into the slats to identify the picker who filled the barrel. Each barrel earned a person $.50. Yes, that decimal point is in the right place. Barrels were collected on flatbed trucks and hauled to the potato house for storage.
It was long hours of back-breaking labor. Now there are havesters.
The potatoes are dug out of the ground and transported on conveyors to the body of the harvester where young people stand and cull out rocks, dirt, and plant material. Then the conveyor deposits the potatoes directly into the bed of potato trucks that haul them to the potato house.
With the automation of the harvest, children can no longer help with the harvest. Workers need to be at least 16 to be on a harvester. And this is where my children come in. We have a dear friend who is a potato farmer. (I worked for him one season yeeeeaars ago when my children were young. It was a wonderful experience. Of course I didn’t grow up with it so I found it fascinating. Hard work, but educational. Sorry, I digress…) Anyhoodles … they work on the harvester from 6 am to 7 pm. A veeeery loooong day indeed.
But it’s only for three weeks. I figure you can do anything for three weeks. And they get paid very well for their labor. So all my children have worked throughout their high school years. I am proud that Little Boy Blue will once again be one of a handful of students from his high school actually working the harvest. The tradition of students working for farmers is waning. With so few teenagers working, I suspect within the next decade there will no longer be a harvest break at the schools.
This will be our last time dealing with the harvest in our house. Early hours, praying for rain (to take a day off), praying for sun (so you don’t freeze your butt off on the harvester all day), cleaning Wally World out of Little Debbie snacks and work gloves, doing laundry every night so the potato dirt covering four layers of clothing doesn’t spread further than the back door to the shower, reheating dinners for exhausted children, and all the other stuff that goes with the season.
I’m pleased my kids have had this experience to take with them into their work years. I suspect there will be few jobs they will work that will be as labor intensive as harvesting potatoes. I hope the lessons they learn from their years in the field will be carried with them for a long time to come.
So now, I have to ask you. What have you done, either that you loved or hated … that when it was over was a life lesson you’ve kept with you?
This week I’m organizing what’s left of my summer. I’m so sad the first month is nearly over. So here’s a list of 13 things I need to do this summer.
1. Attend my chapter meeting of RWA. Out of the whole summer I only get to make it to one monthly meeting. 🙁 That makes me so sad. These authors lift me up and recharge me. I’m so happy I can at least stay in touch over the Internet.
2. Go to the fireworks. I wouldn’t miss them. I’m like a little kid. I love the sparklers and I oooh and ahhh at every single one of them. My favorite fireworks by far were the year I got to see them in Washington DC.
3. Finish edits for my novella, Blue Moon Rising, in the Furry, Fluffy and Wild shifter anthology from Liquid Silver Books.
4. Attend the Highland Games in Nova Scotia. Oh, yeah! One of the few weekend trips we’re taking that don’t involve family at the other end. And who wouldn’t want to spend the day watching men in kilts throw, chop, and muscle things?
5. Take an online writing course. I always enjoy learning new things about writing. There are so many good ones out there, sometimes it’s hard for me to choose. But this particular class promises to push my writing to the next level. Well … only if I work really hard.
6. Spend time at Sommes Sound near Acadia National Park. The Maine coast is beautiful and there is nothing more peaceful than Sommes Sound early in the morning when the fog is hanging just over the surface and lobster boats are meandering their way to the ocean. *sigh* Just right for finding my writing muse. I may not be able to hike the mountain trails any longer, but swimming in the ocean and lazy on the rocky shore is just what I need to recharge my batteries.
7. Drop Little Boy Blue off at Engineering Camp. He is so excited to give this a try. It’s for those going into their senior year who are trying to figure out which type of engineering is the right avenue for them.
8. Visit my sister and her family at the beach. (Are you sensing a theme here … my family loooves the ocean.) I am so excited. For a month my older sissie comes up from Maryland to stay in Maine. I heart my sister. She’s one of my very best friends. I can’t wait to see her! And the answer to your unspoken question … no I didn’t always like her. She got me in trouble A LOT!
9. Visit husband’s family at the lake. We have the best time staying up late playing cards and having bon fires. Drinking too many margaritas and just plain hanging around having fun. But this will be a short visit due to number 10.
10. Getting Little Boy Blue off to school. Here in northern Maine the kids start high school when most teenagers are still making the most of their summer. This is due to a three week break they have in September to harvest potatoes. For real.
11. Finish the sequel to Blue Moon Rising.
12. Visit my mommy. She lives really far away from her children. So she spends a month in the summer here in Maine. I love visiting with her. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she lives at the beach when she’s here!
13. Relax and enjoy the season. Riiiiight!
Okay, Mother Nature. Enough is enough. Yesterday we got another foot of snow dumped on us. I’d like to say this picture is what I’m looking at out my window, but I have to thank Google for providing this image. But it’s so close to my back yard I couldn’t resist posting it here.
Annoying? You betcha!
The snowbanks are so tall (6-10 feet depending on how it’s piled) no one can see around them. Pulling out of a road is like a house of horror… you never know what’s coming at you. The towns are essentially running out of money, sand, and salt… so plowing isn’t done until the last flake falls. The roads have become a permanant white ribbon of hard packed ice, perfect for a horse drawn sleigh ride, not so hospitable for my little Honda.
Poor DH worked his usual 12 hours yesterday, schlepped home and spent about 3 hours snowblowing the drive. And of course, I can’t do anything more than stand in the window and cheer him on.
We have 4-5 feet of snow on the ground. More snow than we’ve had in the last 3 years combined. And… oh, fun! more snow is coming in all weekend (as in 3 days worth). I’m going to be buried until June!
Snow, snow disappear
Don’t come back for another year!
You’re cold and wet and not much fun,
I’d rather be basking in the sun!
But enough about the weather. This whole thing has made me wonder about the location of my stories. 5 novels into my career I realize I’ve set all but one of my stories in Maine. Why wouldn’t I? It’s what I know.
I did have one editor reject my novella saying that the story was good but the location didn’t pull her in. Huh. Got me to thinking. Do I read a book and pay attention to where I am or do I get so wrapped up in the characters that the location doesn’t matter? I didn’t used to read that way… now I do.
Now I understand that some stories like Sandra Brown’s Fat Tuesday (which is the first story that turned me on to her writing) need to be set in a specific locale. Her novel takes place in New Orleans and the location becomes another character. The heat and party atomosphere of Mardi Gras affect the story. It matters where they are. The plot is driven by the characters including the location.
But take Nicholas Spark’s The Notebook. Another winner. Love the book, love the movie… but I couldn’t tell you exactly where it all took place other than somewhere in the south.
So, do you care where the story is? Reading (especially romance) is a fantasy… I get that. It’s an opportunity to be drawn away from your world into some place new, exciting, perhaps a little scary. When you pick up a book do you want to be carried away to exotic places or is it the people that draw you in? Perhaps a balance of the two?
Because now, I’m curious.