How we spent our quiet season

It has been a busy quiet season here at Peacock House. We have been steadily working through the winter on projects to enhance the inn. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been up to:

  • Most importantly, Peacock House will now be hosted by “we” instead of “me!” My husband Jim will be moving Downeast later this month. It will be wonderful to be together again and share our inn adventure!
  • King-sized beds are now in three suites: The Seaglass Suite, The Margaret Chase Smith Suite and The Peacock Suite. Luxurious 18 inch Satva mattresses will have you sleeping like a baby.
  • The Peacock Suite now features an antique fireplace surround as a unique headboard.image000003
  • The Meadow Suite has received a makeover and is now permanently set up with twin beds for guests who want to travel together but sleep separately.
  • WIFI has been upgraded throughout the inn for guest convenience.
  • The sunroom now features a charming gas stove to provide a cozy atmosphere on mornings and evenings when there is a bit of a chill.image000000
  • Lubec is known as a place to spy rustic wooden whales on homes and in local businesses. They are a popular item for visitors to purchase. These distinct whales were previously made by our friend Ernie, who has transitioned his business to Jim. You can now find your favorite whale from our selection here at Peacock House.image000005
  • Peacock House is now offering weekend workshops in the arts during the quiet season. A fiber arts retreat and a home brew workshop are in the works for the fall.
  • We have been sprouting flowers that we’re eager to plant. Spring is right around the corner and we are looking forward to having a blooming back yard!image000001 (9)
  • We will now be offering picnic baskets to-go! Baskets will be filled with delectable food and can be tailored to your dietary needs for lunch or dinner! A great choice for when you are exploring some of the more remote vistas! (We highly recommend a picnic at Reversing Falls!)
  • Finally, as year-round Lubec residents, we believe any time is a good time to visit Maine! Each season has something to offer everyone, whether you are looking to disconnect, reconnect, get lost or find yourself, we hope to provide you the very best in comfort. While we are not “officially” open during the quiet season, we can generally meet any reservation requested.

We hope our projects and upgrades will enhance your stay this coming year. In the future, we are looking forward to planning and building a coop and raising our very own resident chickens. I am excited for an abundant supply of fresh eggs and to add to the inn’s breakfast repertoire.

Happy Spring! We hope to see you soon.

Sincerely,

Mary Beth Hoffman, Innkeeper

 

 

Now We Are Two

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A major change is coming that will have a profound and wonderful impact on me as innkeeper. My husband, Jim, is moving to Maine in May to co-innkeep with me. No longer will I be running the inn as a solo venture.

Jim has been holding down the fort in Pennsylvania, where we lived all of our lives prior to moving to Maine. He left the book selling world 16 years ago to start and run his own company, A. Quartersawn Furniture Restoration. During the past year and a half, he has been finishing up with a long list of customers while planning and implementing an exit strategy. He’s also been a local resource for our son, Mark, who is attending Temple University’s College of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Jim brings with him a welcome and essential skill set. He is a great repair person and bookkeeper, which are two jobs I will gladly hand over! He will also serve as the resident librarian and champion of our music area, in addition to helping me with general inn operations. Some of you may have already met Jim. He has come for several “vacations” wherein he accomplished a very long “honey do” list.

Jim is an enthusiastic reader (mostly nonfiction). He’s also a cinephile, especially when it comes to art films and independent movies. He would win at Trivial Pursuit if there was a music category- he’s into rock, folk, rock-a-billy, jazz, blues and the works of singer-songwriters. He also plays guitar-”somewhat,” he says.DSC_0552 (3)

Jim will also take on the role of Lubec’s resident whale-maker, creating the rustic, wooden whales that you will find at the inn and all around Lubec. Ernie “Whaleman” Williams, our friend whose whales have graced businesses and homes near and far for decades, has passed his whale-making torch and all of his trade secrets to Jim.

It looks like Jim will have many torches to carry! We have wanted to work together for years, and now it is finally happening. We make a great team. Welcome, Jim! It’s been too long! It will be good to be two again soon. I’ve missed you!

From Sugar Shack to Table

What are the first things you think of when you think of Maine? Perhaps lobster, craggy ocean cliffs, wild blueberries or dense green forests? How about authentic, tooth-achingly sweet, delectably rich Maine maple syrup?image000000 (8)1

In our continued effort to keep it local, we have been serving Chandler’s Sugar Shack maple syrup as a staple on our breakfast table. Chandler’s is one of the only syrup making operations in Washington County. All others are much further west and north. Interestingly, most of the maple syrup these days comes from Canada. At Peacock House, you get the good stuff. Authentic. Maine. Syrup.

Maple syrup, like the blueberry, has a short production season. It comes in a rush and then is gone in a flash. The tree-tapping, syrup-making process is something I have wanted to witness, so I set my sights on the 82 mile drive to Topsfield (which is pretty darn local by syrup standards!) and waited until the weather was right for syrup production. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Peacock House and makes for an engaging afternoon. Just getting there was an adventure!

I drove through a wildlife preserve, a Native American reservation, past ice houses and moose crossings (though sadly the moose remained elusive), traveled over ice-heaved country roads that thrilled like an amusement park ride, past an eagle’s nest and an ancient Esso station, into a land with much more snow and about 10 degrees colder than Lubec. Making the drive gave me a fresh appreciation for the distance Chandler’s travels to deliver syrup to my door!

Did you know that syrup making started with the Native Americans as they let sap dry on rocks in their camp fires? Neither did I until my visit! I learned the history, process and fun syrup facts while sampling sweet treats and witnessing the magic of turning sap, as clear and thin as water with only a hint of sweetness, into the sticky, dark luxury that is Maine maple syrup.image000000 (2)1

I was lucky to see the process in action and planned my trip accordingly. Many days the syrup doesn’t run. It requires cold nights and warm days and mother nature is notoriously fickle this time of year. The sap actually freezes in the tubes overnight. Sap buckets, by the way, are a thing of the past.

Chandler’s collected 900 gallons of sap the day I visited. A great day is 1400 gallons. It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup. Chandler’s is considered a small operation and is a family-run business. In addition to running their Sugar Shack, Bert and Bob, Jr. still manage to work full-time, year-round jobs. The operation produces about 4200 gallons of syrup a year.

We proudly offer a few of these sought-after bottles of Chandler’s syrup not just on our table, but in our gift area too. While Maple syrup season is easy to miss, fear not! We saved you some.

Below, I have tried to document the process, which is more complex than I imagined, but my most important takeaway is this: Maple syrup over Breyer’s vanilla ice cream is to die for.

Bon appetit!

Mary Beth Hoffman, Innkeeper

Outside of Chandler’s Sugar Shack. (People in Maine generally call the building where syrup is made a “sugar shack.”)

Tubing collects the sap, which runs into the sugar shack. (Sap buckets no more! Nostalgic, yes, but tubing is easier on the trees.)
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Two taps. The metal tap is an old fashioned style tap, much bigger than the new version. The new version allows the tree to heal more quickly. Each season, the tree is tapped in a new spot, moving around the circumference of the tree, giving it a chance to heal its previous tap hole with much less damage to the tree. The old tap has a bit of a hook on it from which the old buckets would hang.
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Here’s the easy breakdown of a complicated process:

The sap goes through a process of reverse osmosis to separate out the raw syrup. What is left behind is essentially distilled water used for cleaning the equipment. (Chandler’s syrup is inspected by the health department, so it meets health standards. It is not a “home-brew” operation.) The syrup boils in the evaporator, which is heated by a stoked wood fire. After the syrup has gone through the evaporator, it collects in a vat.

A filter machine then removes any impurities. And a bottling machine fills the bottles.

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Bob, Jr. monitors the evaporation process and keeps people away from the very hot sap/syrup inside. Its literally boiling in there. The evaporation process is done in a machine about 20 feet long that boils and evaporates the sap down to syrup.

And finally, the magic: SAMPLES!
Maple oatmeal bars and maple cookies, maple cake and maple granola, maple sugar candy and my favorite, maple syrup on Breyer’s vanilla ice cream. Simple, understated, and out of this world delicious.

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A PSA from a PFA

With one year under my belt as the new innkeeper of Peacock House, many of you may not even be aware that ownership of the Inn has changed. It was a whirlwind first year, with a steep learning curve and a lot of joy. I have found my calling!

Sue and Dennis Baker, the previous innkeepers, did a phenomenal job helping me transition into this life-long dream. I’m very grateful for all they have done. I love my new home and feel welcomed by the local community. I have become part of the population affectionately known as People From Away (or PFAs)—those people who came for a visit, and stayed.

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About me: My name is Mary Beth Hoffman and I, like the previous owners, came to Lubec from Pennsylvania. I lived in a little town called Media, just outside of Philadelphia and I had a 35-year career in Occupational Therapy, working in rehab and in schools. I’ve been married to my husband, Jim, for 36 years. Jim owns a furniture restoration business in Pennsylvania that he is in the process of selling in order to move to Maine. Jim and I have a 23 year old son, Mark, who is attending Temple University in Philadelphia and studying graphic design.

I dreamed of being an innkeeper for 30 years. And yes, being an innkeeper is every bit as rewarding as I imagined! I enjoy owning a small business and being hands-on, from creating new and exciting breakfasts and making sure each guest’s stay is delightful, to finding locally sourced ingredients, soaps, coffee and artwork. I enjoy my work down to the smallest detail of room presentation, guest comfort and, of course, freshly baked afternoon cookies.

I enjoy supporting this wonderful community and getting to know so many unique peoplelocals and out-of-towners alike. I also enjoy meeting guests for the first time and welcoming back returning friends. It is a treat to see familiar faces at the door. I enjoy helping guests to feel at home and encourage them to make the most of the inn’s common space- to use the living room, library, sunroom and outdoor deck at their leisure.

Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.

                              -Julia Child

Going into my second year, I am embracing the solitude of a snowy February day, knowing the busy season is approaching when the snow disappears. I have a long list of projects to keep me occupied, but I appreciate the quiet of the off-season.

In a few months, the inn will be a buzz of activity with Summerkeys participants, workshop guests and hiking/sightseeing/adventuring vacationers sharing tales of travels and whale sightings over breakfast in the morning, or over a glass of wine in the sunroom in the evening. In a few months, I’ll be up before dawn, brewing coffee and preparing a breakfast that’s pleasing to the eye and palate. I’ll spend the day cleaning rooms and washing linens, running errands, booking reservations and all the other little things that go along with running an inn. I’ll visit with guests into the evening, and will crawl into bed exhausted and happy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That knowledge makes today and its non-rushed pace all the more enjoyable.

I hope you will follow along with this blog, and follow Peacock House on Facebook, while we showcase the many reasons to fall in love with Downeast Maine. When you’re ready to take the plunge and explore the breathtaking coast of Maine for yourself, I hope you will choose to stay at Peacock House, where PFAs are made.

Sincerely,

Mary Beth Hoffman, Innkeeper