Monday, September 24, 2018

Taking it for Granite...

We make it a point to visit small local museums when we travel, and were surprised to discover one right under our noses that we've missed in the four months we have been here. The Maine Granite Museum is only about 20 miles south of us, on Mount Desert Island. Mount Desert Island is most famous for being the location of Acadia National Park.

But as early as 1830 Mount Desert Island was known for dozens of granite quarries. Due to a complex history of tectonic plates collisions, volcanic events, sea level changes and glaciation, there are several different types of granite found in this relatively small region.

Map of past quarry locations on Mount Desert Island

Some of the granite found near Bar Harbor

With several different types of rock to choose from, and deep-water ports that allowed ships to load directly from the quarries, Bar Harbor granite made its way to buildings as far away as Omaha, Nebraska.

It is amazing that the building was essentially built in Maine, and then disassembled with each stone marked, and shipped to Nebraska where is was re-assembled. This was the technique used for most of the stone buildings of the era.

The Founder/curator of the museum is Steve Haynes, and he runs the place as a one-man show. Steve began his apprenticeship at the ripe age of 11 years old, completing it in 4 years. He then worked his career as a stone mason on Bar Harbor, unfortunately seeing the decline of the industry and closing of most of the quarries. His goal now is to preserve and present the amazing history of the era.

 Steve Haynes with polished granite sphere 
from his apprenticeship

We learned that the "final exam" of a Mason's apprenticeship was the creation of a polished granite sphere. Steve mentioned that the process of creating the sphere takes place over a period of two years. He had a variety of spheres on display, including the one that he himself created during his apprenticeship!

One exhibit showed the tools and process used to create a basic granite block. 

First, a shallow line is chiseled onto the surface of the block to show the desired cut. Then 3" deep holes were drilled with a hand drill, about 6" apart. The drill is actually a pointed chisel that shatters the hard granite into dust, which is then removed with a tiny little dust spoon. 

"Spoon" used to remove granite dust from drill hole. 

Once the line of holes is completed a series of wedges is inserted into the hole and tightened. The amount of tension in the wedges is important, as too tight will cause a quick, ragged break. The correct amount of wedging results in a slower, straight break. 

Once the basic stone block is split, there is a long process to create perfectly flat faces which are critical to stone building construction. Each corner is worked down until they are all at the same height. Steve demonstrated how it was done with a set of four spacers and two sticks to "eyeball" it the correct height. Once the corners were at the correct height the rest of the stone face was taken down to their level. 

Another interesting element is the cutting of a tapered slot into the top of each block. 

This slot accepts a special lifting insert that wedges into the slot and is used to lift and place the stone. These slots are never filled as they may be needed in the future to lift stones if the structure is disassembled.

The museum has also collected tooling for related industries, like cemetery monuments. For instance, they had templates for dozens of different marker shapes and the stencils for lettering. 

Headstone templates. 

There were some larger outdoor exhibits as well, including this beautifully restored stiff-leg crane once used to lift and load granite blocks. 

This crane used a pair of hand-winches to lift and maneuver the blocks. 

As a thank-you for visiting his museum, Steve gave Teri a small piece of polished, Mount Desert Island granite. We'll attach a magnet to it and give it a place of honor in the trailer!


Friday, September 21, 2018


We made reservations for a whale watching trip leaving out of Lubec.  Lubec is about a 3 hour drive from here.  The boat didn’t leave until 1:00 p.m. but we left the house early.  We had a museum we wanted to see and we wanted to eat lunch before getting on the boat.

About 1 1/2 hours into our drive we received a phone call from the whale watching folks letting us know that the winds were too strong and the trip was cancelled.  We decided to go keep driving to Lubec and stay with our other plans.

We stopped at the McCurdy Smokehouse which is now a museum dedicated to the history of the industry in Lubec.

It’s been over 25 years since the smokehouse was in operation but it still smells like smoke and fish.  There is a $4 fee for the museum.

Lubec fishermen brought in thousands of tons of Atlantic herring a year from the weirs scattered in the nearby Bay of Fundy.  Anybody over 10 years old worked in the smokehouses.

This is one of the herring sticks.

This is a room full of herring sticks!  It’s amazing that they have not been destroyed.  The smell of smoked fish was strongest in this room.  You can still see the oil on the sticks.

The fish were hung up to 30 feet in the air from the rafters of the smokehouse, while the smoke from a perennially burning fire on the floor cured the fish.

 After seven to eight weeks, the herring were taken down, decapitated, skinned, gutted, deboned, split in half and packed into wooden boxes to be shipped all over the world.

Wooden shipping boxes.

The wooden packing boxes were put together by the workers during the winter months.

The workers who strung the herring on the herring sticks, and did the packing process were payed by how many herring they strung and packed.  When they had completed a batch of work, they would call for a “punch”.  The supervisor would inspect their work and punch their tally card.

By 1975, McCurdy’s was the last cold smoking commercial herring smokehouse operating in the United States.  

In the 1980s there was a botulism outbreak that was traced to whitefish in the Great Lakes. The poisoning had nothing to do with McCurdy’s, but in 1991 the Food and Drug Administration responded to the outbreak by demanding that McCurdy eviscerate his fish before salting and smoking them. That would have required $75,000 worth of new equipment.  McCurdy did not have the money and the smokehouse was closed.

In 1996, the decaying smokehouse was restored by the newly-formed Lubec Landmarks.

This was a wonderful museum.  Our guide very knowledgeable and entertaining.  There were no souvenirs to buy but if there had been, this museum would be magnet worthy!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Needhams - Possibly The Worlds Most Perfect Candy

Maine is known for a lot of different foods - lobster, blueberries, maple syrup, whoopie pies, and potatoes.  Maine once harvested more potatoes than any other state.

Needhams are made with three of my favorite foods - chocolate, coconut and potatoes.

Needhams originated around 1872 and the story goes that Rev. Needham brought the candy to church as an incentive to get people to attend.

Needhams taste a lot like a Mounds candy bar. You do not taste the potato at all.  Dark chocolate is the best.

Basically the recipe calls for confectioners' sugar, mashed potatoes, sweetened flaked coconut, chocolate, butter, vanilla, shortening, and salt.

They are worth a trip to Maine!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lenny, The Chocolate Moose

The Maine Audubon offers daily guided canoe tours near Portland, Maine.  Since there are plenty of disc golf courses and other fun things to do in this area, we decided several days were necessary to see it all.

We arrived at Scarborough Marsh early with the thought that we could do some birding before the canoe tour started.  We were surprised to see that there was very little parking and not a lot of area to bird.

Scarborough Marsh is owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  It’s a 3,100 acre estuary and is the largest salt marsh in the state.

We thought about just renting kayaks (which we prefer over canoes) but decided to just go ahead and join the guided tour. 

Our guide started the tour with a 20 minute talk about the area.  It was pretty basic and was a little boring.  After everyone was fitted for a life jacket, we got in our canoe’s and headed out into the foggy marsh.

At $13 each we weren’t expecting a long tour but we were surprised when we were told it was time to turn back.  We really hadn’t been out very long.

We found a map of the canoe trails and hope to get back to this area to rent kayaks and explore the area on our own.

Across the street from the parking area was a short trail that went along a wetland.  We saw a few birds (certainly more than we had on the canoe trip) along the trail.

American Black Duck

Great Egret and Great Blue Heron

Common Tern

I had looked up attractions in this area and came across an interesting candy shop with a life size chocolate moose.  So we headed to Len Libby Candies and Gifts.

Lenny, the chocolate moose, has been standing in the same spot since July 1, 1997.  He is 1,700 pounds of milk chocolate.  He’s not solid.  There is a chicken wire frame under the chocolate.  The “pond” he is standing in is white chocolate tinted with blue food coloring.

I’m not sure when the bears were added but Mom (Libby - 380 pounds of solid dark chocolate) and the cubs (Cocoa and Chips - 80 pounds each of solid dark chocolate) were also there with Lenny.

There was a really good short movie being played showing Lenny being built.  We bought some ice cream and settled in to learn all about Lenny, the chocolate moose.

We had 3 1/2 days to spend in this area.  Mark had picked out disc golf courses he wanted to play and I had more tourist attractions lined up.

Eartha is the world’s largest rotating/revolving globe (according to Guinness Book of records).  It is housed in a three-story glass gallery at DeLorme (now Garmin) Headquarters.  Eartha was designed by CEO David DeLorme and completed in 1998.

It is just over 41 feet in diameter and was designed at a scale of 1:1,000,000 (one inch equals 16 miles).  California is 3 1/2 feet tall.

It is tilted at 23/5 degrees, just like Earth and is rotated by an electric motor.

A second motor swivels the entire tilted, rotating globe around the attachment point to the floor.  It takes about 18 minutes to complete a cycle.

We have seen a lot of “big” attractions in Maine.  I could probably write a whole blog just on big attractions we’ve seen.

Big F Indian is in Freeport.  There are several ideas on what the F stands for.  We’ll just say it stand for Freeport and leave it at that.

His official name is Chief Passamaquoddy.  He was built in 1969, stands 40 feet tall and weights 1,500 pounds.  He used to stand in front of the Casco Bay Trading Company but the trading company is long gone.   

The Fawcett’s Toy Museum was across the street from where we had lunch.  The weather was cloudy and misty so we decided to walk on over and take a look.  I don’t think we’ve ever been to a toy museum.  The area immediately inside the door has toys for sale and it’s free to walk around.  There is a fee to go into the museum (I don’t remember how much it was).  This place was packed with items.

There were a few things I recognized.

There was a lot to see.

This was a fun trip with lots of things to see.

Monday, September 17, 2018

1.2 million

One of our on-going projects has been to clean egg trays.  There are 200 egg trays holding about 1.2 million eggs.

One of two tray rooms.

In November some eggs will be taken from the brood stock here at the hatchery but most of the eggs raised here will be brought in from another hatchery close by.

By April the eggs have hatched into salmon fry and are ready to be moved to indoor tanks.  By that time the trays are pretty scummy.  Water is circulated through the trays to keep the scum from drying and hardening on the trays.  Once dried, the scum is very hard to remove.

When we would have an hour or two to spare we would tackle the on-going job of cleaning the trays.

Each column of trays has its own water supply that would need to be turned off and the water drained from the trays.

This is a very wet and messy job.

It was a good job for a warm, sunny day.  It would take a while to get everything set up before we could actually start power washing the trays.

The trays are very dirty.

There are three parts to the tray.  

The top screen keeps all the eggs in place.  Mark had to carefully power wash the screen so that it wasn't damaged.

The first inside tray is screened so that water can continuously circulate.  It is the tray that holds the eggs. 

The bottom part of the tray holds the water that is continuously circulated.  It’s the dirtiest part and has lots of crevices that are hard to clean.

The bottom gets cleaned inside and out.


This has been a great project to work on when we have extra time.  There wasn’t a big rush to get it completed.  When the days were warm we could take a couple of hours to clean a column or two of trays.