The Working Waterfront

And the secret ingredient is…

Plus, the gift of fall on a Maine island

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2022-01-20
Last Modified 2022-01-20

I would like to humbly apologize to anyone who read my last column about oatcakes and who had baking failures because they followed a recipe in which I neglected to put oats in the list of ingredients.

Two cups of oats! Two cups of oats! I so carefully edited my directions to make sure they made sense but I forgot to double check the rest of my recipe. I would never intend to leave out the main ingredient, but I sure did last month!

I actually had a batch of oatcakes baking in the oven on the day I received my November copy of The Working Waterfront. I never noticed the omission, but within an hour I had an email from a reader who wanted to bake.

The illusion of a tree generating its own luminosity against the gray delights me every time.

“How many cups of oats do I need?”

I looked again at my column in the paper. No oats! I looked back at the copy I had sent to our editor. No oats! The mistake was all mine. It was easy enough to fix in the online version, but I vowed to answer any emails, letters, or phone calls on the day I received them. I had over a dozen opportunities to follow through with this commitment, and each one was actually quite enjoyable, though I’m still sorry for my mistake.

I will call almost any month “one of my favorites” because I love living on Little Cranberry Island, but if I had to pick a favorite season, fall is the one.
This year’s warm October days were a gift, luring several of us into the water on bonus beach afternoons. It was an amazing year for apples all over the island, providing quick picking and an abundant source for applesauce, chutney, pies, breads, cakes, and crisps. On four different occasions I picked baskets of Macintosh apples from Mark Fernald’s tree, yet each time it looked as if no one had been there.

In my garden I’ve been “undoing” the summer. I’ve cut back my perennials, divided some irises, pulled up annuals, and helped my grandchildren plant next year’s garlic. The garden is ready for a blanket of leaves and seaweed.

How fortunate I am to live in a place where I can get free seaweed right at the end of my road. It’s one of the perks of island living. I just have to wait for the next storm to conveniently deposit piles of the brown slimy vegetation at the top of the beach.

As I put my garden to bed for a long nap, my head fills with ideas. Any evidence of what didn’t grow well last summer is gone. All I see is potential for the next growing season and I feel optimistic.

In the weeks before the winter solstice the lowering angle of the sun creates a quality of light that I look forward to seeing every year. I love the cloudy days, when a stray beam of sunlight hits the yellow leaves of a birch tree. The illusion of a tree generating its own luminosity against the gray delights me every time.

Toward the end of November the light will be a little more filtered, with a cooler hue. More of it comes through the openings left by fallen leaves, so even though the days are shorter, they can be extremely bright.

The very light I love is a bane to lobster fishermen who have trouble with the glare it produces on the water. They are starting to round up gear either to move it out farther or bring it ashore and the light can cause them to miss a buoy or more.

I know it’s not everyone’s favorite time of year, and that some people really suffer with days that darken by 3:30 p.m. I am fortunate to not be one of them. I am so grateful to really love this time of year, undaunted by the dark and so appreciative of the extraordinary light. For me the darkest days fly by with the distraction of the holidays and before I know it the days are getting longer again.

When I think about this time last year, I remember that I did not feel this way about fall at all. It was a very dark time. I want to fully appreciate how wonderful it feels to write an end of year column today using such words as: abundance, hope, optimistic, enjoyable, delight, and oats. I wish you all much grace in the days ahead along with 2 cups of oats and abundant delight in the new year.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford and has lots of loyal readers, evidenced by the emails and phone messages the editor received about the missing oats! She may be contacted at