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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Winter Expedition to Foxgreen Farm in Seboeis Maine


Foxgreen Farm Expedition

Day 1

The whole country seems to have been hit with snow and cold this winter to a  degree which hasn't been repeated in over 50 years.  In normal circumstances, the farm in Maine is "locked in" for much of the winter. The plowed roads end.  After that there are 6.5 miles yet to go through the woods to the cabin, field and Farm.  Transportation is limited by snowmobile or more difficult snowshoe or cross country skiing.  Those last  two options would be a bad choice unless we were prepared for a real arctic experience.  Even if we were prepared, those non-motorized methods might not work this year.  The snow depth is far too great.  In the photo to the left, we are approaching the end of the pavement just after a fresh ten inches of fresh snow.  

The snow stopped falling, we unloaded and got ready to head out into the woods.   This is my best friend Doc and his daughter.  We had borrowed a "tag" sled trailer for the snowmobile and packed our stuff for the next few days.  At this point we had no idea if it was possible to reach the farm.  Snow depths can not be accurately predicted even across the few miles from where we are starting our adventure.  The microclimates make a huge difference over six miles and there is some elevation gain from where this photo is taken.  The snowmobile was rented and a two person model.  Perfect for me, Doc and his daughter comfortably sitting  between us, staying warm and safe.  Luckily the temperatures were fairly moderate.  

One more photo before heading out into the woods!

Our trip went smoothly for the first three miles or so. The road had been traveled before us by others on snowsleds and early in the winter was plowed briefly to accommodate logging operations.  

Here we are just heading out.

About a mile in, you can see the snow is getting deeper.  Previous snowmobile travel is getting less frequent.  I have a confession to make. Neither Doc or I are really experienced snomobilers and the weight of two and a half people on the sled while it was pulling a tag trailer added some significant difficulty to navigating ungroomed trails.  

This is the gate protecting the farm, Doc's land and other's.  We didn't have a gate for years and I wish it weren't necessary.  Central and Northern Maine have much more of an upside than down,  I really want to emphasize that.  The economy of the area needs a boost.  Part of the Sea Buckthorn experiment at Foxgreen Farm is to see if this could be a new crop opportunity in this part of the world.  I believe it is and if that proves to be true, the economic benefit would be very important to the area.  Historically, it is a "wood" economy.  Unless you are making money from timber, you aren't making money.  Problem is the timber isn't what it used to be and the larger machines and new technology at the mills require less people, so the area residents have fewer and fewer options.  
About 3 miles in the snow is even deeper and less traveled.  Here we are nearing the half-way point to the cabin and Farm.  We had seen numerous moose tracks, but none very recent.  Moose don't hibernate but they do something very close.  They lay down, sleep and only occasionally stand up to chew on a few twigs.  It really is an effort of energy conservation.  It is still a couple of months before fresh vegetation begins to grow.

After crossing the East Branch of the Seboies Stream Bridge there was no previous evidence of snowsled travel at all.  This meant that we were forging a fresh trail in very deep snow and it didn't work very well.  In an attempt at breaking new trail, Doc took the sled with his daughter and I staying behind and tried to stay on top of the snow. This would have packed the snow down a bit.  Even so, traveling on a newly packed trail is a bit like walking a tight rope.  Waver a bit and the sled just rolls slowly over into the soft snow. Kinda fun in a weird sort of way.   We were only partially successful in our forward efforts.  This is a photo of the 2nd time the snowsled sank.  We then tried again without the tag trailer.  I made it up part of the way on a fairly steep section of trail and sank.  We muscled the sled out and pointed it back down the hill.  
One time while we were getting the snowsled back on top of the snow.  Doc's daughter looks in this photo to be a bit exasperated.  I assure you she was having the time of her life.  Really remarkable how being in all that snow was just like some sort of winter wonderland for her (it was for us too).  I don't have any pics yet of it but when we tumbled in the snow a few times it wasn't a concern, just an opportunity to make more snow angels!  The time it took to get this far was significant and it was time to point the snowsled back to the trailer and try again tomorrow.

Day 2

I want to take a minute to thank the group of people who helped us out.  I won't mention them by name but a neighbor in the woods who stays the winter months in a camp on the paved road put us up for a few nights. His neighbors welcomed us with nothing short of a celebration of food and fun.  The tag trailer was generously offered for use. On the phone, I got some excellent advice too.  The second day, another woods neighbor and his son who have "mountain" snowsleds heard of our efforts and called to offer their assistance. I think it may have been impossible to make it all the way to the Farm if they hadn't helped us out.  Thanks to them all!

The second day was not without its challenges.  The next few photos do a pretty good job showing the snow depth and how it can swallow you up if not careful.  I had already pulled myself out when I took these next few photos. Note again, Doc's daughter is lighter, floats, and just thought all this was the best ever.

Crawling up and out......

Almost out!

A survivor :-).  Onward to the Farm and Cabin!

We arrived shortly after the snow almost swallowed us up like a Florida sink hole- OK, I exaggerate.  It was afternoon and the day was going fast.  We couldn't spend much time.  Being able to see the trail in the daylight was more than just a little important as we headed back out of the woods.

This is the best photo I have of the Sea Buckthorn Orchard.  As I said, the daylight was limited (you can see the shadow of the hill on the lower part of the far trees) and we just had enough time to spend a few minutes around the cabin before heading out.  You can see in the lower field the tops of the plants. While I did not have time to break another foot trail down there and get some closer pictures, I was very glad to see they hadn't been eaten by moose down to the snowline.  I'll be back in as soon as possible to make a closer assessment.  

Here is Doc and daughter on the porch of the cabin. Behind them is, buried under the snow, about 100 saskatoon bushes.  I will have to wait to see how they made out until the spring.
Time to go, the sun was getting lower and lower in the sky.

We made it out ok and just before dark.  Growing Sea Buckthorn has just gained a new dimension for me.  It has never been better.  This winter expedition has highlighted the incalculable value of community and friends in the wilds of Maine.

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