Cold Hard News by Maureen Milliken

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A teenager dies in a snowmobile crash. An old fella emerges from the roadside snow in the spring, apparently killed by a snowplow. And this is only a portion of the murder and mayhem in Maureen Milliken’s wonderful first novel, Cold Hard News.

Maureen’s enjoyed a great career in the newspaper business throughout New England. Since she returned to Maine in 2011, she’s served as a columnist and editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, where it’s been my privilege to get to know her.  She is witty and sometimes cynical, and those qualities come through in the novel.

Family fun at Claybrook Mountain Lodge, a place cherished by Mainers

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New Portland
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                 It was a birding adventure we will never forget, and not just because we identified 98 species of birds. Claybrook Mountain Lodge in Highland Plantation offers comfort, adventure, and fabulous food, but it’s the family atmosphere created by owner/hosts Greg and Pat Drummond that keep bringing guests back year after year.

                The weekend we were there, there was a couple from Litchfield with their two grandchildren, Corey and Elise. The couple has been coming here for 25 years. On their first trips, they stayed in Greg and Pat’s home. Everyone there for the birding weekend was from Maine, and judging from the guest book, this is a place cherished by Mainers.

There will be no bear referendum or Constitutional amendments to protect hunting in 2016

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Sportsmen dodged a bullet but may be disappointed that their Constitutional amendments are about to be killed by the Maine legislature. The best news is that the Humane Society of the United States has decided not to pursue another bear referendum in 2016.

Here’s the inside story of what has happened. A bill that made significant changes in the law to assure that Maine citizens circulate petitions and witness signatures for ballot measures is on its way to enactment. That fixes one problem, removing out-of-staters from the process of gathering signatures.

This fall, Maine citizens are likely to vote on a Constitutional amendment to require that half of the signatures for a citizen ballot initiative come from the First Congressional District and half from the Second Congressional District. The Humane Society of the United States gathered 58 percent of their signatures for the 2014 bear referendum in just 22 towns, mostly in Cumberland County. 46,463 of their 63,626 signatures came from the First Congressional District.

Tick talking is a daily conversation today

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Yesterday Linda came in from gardening with three deer ticks attached. I easily extracted all three using our Tick Off plastic spoon. I had picked four deer ticks off of my body that day, all as they moved up my arms and legs. Yes, tick checks are now done routinely every day at our house. These days, when the tick is a wood tick, I am almost relieved. No danger there. But deer ticks are frightening, particularly because I have friends with Lyme disease and it is an almost daily threat to me now.

Last week, coming home from the legislature, I pulled into Fielder’s Choice ice cream in Manchester, using the drive-up window to order a cone. As the young lady handed me the cone, I reached for it with my left hand and noticed a tick. I quickly yanked the hand back, but as I tried to grab the cone with the right hand, I discovered another tick on that hand!

The Outhouse Gotta Gogo

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It’s gonna be out with the outhouse and in with the new – well – the new outhouse. But the new outhouse is going to be elegant as well as comfortable, much better for the environment, and a whole lot easier to get to and to use. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

For 127 years, patrons of the Vienna Union Hall have had to trudge all the way around and out back of the building to do their business. The outhouse, built on top of ledge and listing to the side, now offers a pungent aroma, and when the wind blows, the toilet paper does too. There’s no electricity or heat, so it’s not all that much fun in the winter. They do give you a flashlight during night performances so you can find your way out there.

I did a book talk at the Hall last year, but I went easy on the food and drink afterward, not at all eager to check out the outhouse.

Landowner Relations Program may expand, thanks to legislature

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 With a couple of significant changes, legislation to expand the landowner relations program at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife won a nearly unanimous vote of support from the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee on May 14.

Rep. Ellie Espling sponsored the bill at my request and worked closely with me throughout the process. Many major organizations testified in support of the bill including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Snowmobile Association, Small Woodland Owners of Maine, Maine Forest Products Council, Maine Conservation Voters, and Sarah Medina, Chair of DIF&W’s Landowner Sportsman Relations Advisory Board.

New owners bring excitement and great dining to the Village Inn and Tavern

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                The new owners of the Village Inn and Tavern in Belgrade Lakes are vivacious, ambitious, and eager to please their customers. Throughout our dinner there, they were both all over the dining room, visiting with customers and assisting the staff.

                Kate Beals and Heather Pena are determined to improve on what was already a good restaurant. They have renovated the upstairs dining room and downstairs tavern, brought in two experienced chefs, Dave Jordan and Sam Nutting, and added outstanding items to the menu that was already famous for its duck dishes.

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