If you said 'propane', I don't think we can be friends any more.

The other day, I was talking to a colleague about BBQ. Because it was either that, or talk more about cloud-based micro-services architectures for horizontal scaling… See? You fell asleep. And BBQ is awesome.

We got to the inevitable conversation about equipment. Because serious BBQ people have serious conversations about BBQ equipment. He’s a Big Green Egg person. Which I respect. When you walk into someone’s porch and you spot one of those Big Green Declarations of BBQ passion, you know you’re talking to someone who cares more for his meat than the average person.

But you have to be careful. Big Green Cultists can also be a little judgey about non-Big Green People. So when the question came, I was ready.

“Propane, or charcoal?”

“Oak.”

fire0.jpg

When we bought the house, I had discovered this giant iron cauldron down near the pond. We had a couple of fires there (If I made it smokey enough, it didn’t so much discourage the Maine mosquitoes, as make it easier to track their flight paths as their sparrow-sized wings created disturbances in the smoke). But I pretty soon moved it up to the patio near the house.

I had been using a Weber for years that was just about ready to give up the ghost - as much as I love those simple kettle-shaped grills, they’re not made to last the ages (one of the advantages you get when you take out an extra mortgage on your house to spring for a Big Green Egg of Eternity). But the grill itself was good enough. And I was in the mood for a steak. And lobster.

Because: Maine

Because: Maine

When lobster drops to ~$4.99/lb - which happens up here at least once or twice most seasons - you have lobster with everything.

Hell, one year, lobster was $4 a pound. I was having a side of lobster with my spaghetti. I’d sprinkle that lobster on Cap’n Crunch at that price.

Anyway. Fire.

Sure, it takes a little more planning to light the fire, and warm up the pit, and build up a good set of embers. But there’s a reason that everything tastes better cooked over a camp fire. There’s some magic in the combination of smoke, heat, and char that creates a flavor combination that is down right mystical. Lobster tails taste sweeter. Steak tastes juicier. Corn or vegetables caramelize more perfectly.

fire3.jpg

So yeah, my Big Green Friend, go ahead and use your charcoal.

That’s good enough for some people, I suppose.

But I’ll stick to oak. And maybe the occasional piece of apple or cherry wood when I’m feeling whimsy.



When faced with a choice to cape, or not to cape: always choose cape

After the experience at SXSW of renting these scooters, I had been aching to buy one. I live about 6 or 7 miles from the office (depending on my route), which is just far enough to work up a sweat on a bike. And then need a shower. And clothes to change into. And a whole series of logistical issues I could never quite figure out.

Scooters don’t have this problem.

My Bride was concerned about my visibility for the cars on the road.

“Don’t worry. I have an idea.”

IMG_2868.JPG

Upta camp

Last year, we found some property about an hour and a half north. 62 acres of woods in the middle of nowhere, Maine, bounded by a river. There’s nothing on it - no utilities, no cell service, and barely a logging road cutting through it that provides access.

In other words, it’s perfect.

camp0.jpg

These past few years, we’ve been occasionally renting a cabin off-grid in places around the state. Just holing up with a wood stove, some books, and quiet. Playing card games by candle light as a family, or walking the trails.

When we started looking for our own, we wanted to find a place that we could place a cabin, and create our own retreat. For now, the woods have given the Boy and I a place to go camping on the occasional weekend. (The girls have visited a couple of times - but they’ve less interest in staying out in the woods until there’s some kind of toilet to use…)

camp3.jpg

The first time we went up there was still snow on the ground (it was April, but this is Maine). We used a tent, and just walked the land a bit, hatching plans.

The next time, we built a lean to shelter - something we could toss our cots under and enjoy the campfire. We added a bit each time, learning what worked, and how to keep it dry. It was a simple tarp thrown up between a fallen tree, and another timber I tied up at an angle. Good enough to start.

camp20.jpg

The property includes an old gravel pit - scraped out by the county when they were building the nearby road decades ago. It’s a handy feature as we think about putting a road into the site we’ve located our camp on, and will eventually place the cabin on. It’s about a quarter of a mile into the woods near to the rapids of the river. The water rushes high in spring, and more placidly in the other seasons.

But the gravel pit also serves as a safe shooting range, standing in the cut towards the pit, where the back bank will catch any stray shots safely. I found a Remington .22 bolt action that is nearly identical to the one my grandfather owned, which I learned to shoot with. A good tradition to pass on.

camp5.jpg

The Boy and I spent the winter plotting and planning what to do next upta camp. When we went up to ‘open’ the property this season, I was pleased to see how well the shelter had lasted. The front support had collapsed. But underneath, the ground was still dry, and the wood we had stored ready for the fire.

IMG_3476.jpg

But I had already decided to expand it a bit - we’ve had friends join us once, and look forward to doing so again. Besides, I wanted a bigger fire.

camp1.jpg

We went with a simple structure, and added a tarp. I left a gap at the ridge pole to let the smoke escape - this will be a little tricky when it rains, of course, but I have some ideas on how to address this later on. Each trip up, we’ll add a bit more. I started one end barrier, and will add another, plus more supports.

This isn’t meant to be a permanent structure, but I do want it to last through the winter. I’ll be clearing trees, and creating the space for a cabin over the coming seasons, but we’ll probably be another year or two before we get around to building the actual structure.

camp2.jpg

I lost track of the number of ticks I’ve pulled off of ourselves over the trips - early in the year, only one or two. But during the height of summer, it’s just about unbearable, between the ticks, black flies, and mosquitos, it’s true. But that’s really only a stretch of about a month or so.

All in all, it’s a place to find peace. To goof off and learn a few bushcrafting skills. To light a fire and share a can of chili. To plink away at the target, and try to identify the tracks we find along the river. To let the sun fall behind the trees, and enjoy the quiet of nature. And build a few memories together while we’re at it.

camp12.jpg

I see why Mainers are so partial to the woods.