The Mountain Farmgirl Goes Maritime!

“Would you rather live in the mountains or by the sea?” was an actual question the Mountain Farmgirl recently found in a fortune cookie. Now how many Chinese fortune cookies do you know that ask questions? And pertinent ones, at that?! But this question turned out to be more than rhetorical. Find out why in “The Mountain Farmgirl Goes Maritime”…

I’ve been a ‘Woods Woman’ all my life, that is, until I moved to New Hampshire and became a Mountain Farmgirl. THE Mountain Farmgirl, in fact!! Living in the White Mountains was like ‘coming home’ to me … the best of all possible worlds: beautiful trees, sparkling rivers and mountain tops galore; the Presidential Range, goes right through my ‘backyard’! I am at home here like nowhere else on earth.

There’s only one problem: my husband is a salty dog who has sea water in his veins. He loves to sail. He’s at home on the ocean, and he longs to be on the coast of Maine every chance he gets. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for one thing: I am NOT a beach person. And water – lots and lots of it, as in “THE OCEAN” … scares me to death. This Landlubber wants her feet planted on solid ground, and you might as well make that ground with plenty of altitude!

For years my husband has wanted to take me to the coast of Maine, and out of ignorance (and a healthy bit of stubbornness), I resisted. So he took our kids a bunch of times instead and I stayed home and minded the shop. I was perfectly happy to do it. Then a couple of years ago he told me,”Enough!! You’re going! I am going to show you the coast of Maine.”

To my pleasant surprise, it wasn’t anything like I’d imagined.  It wasn’t ‘flat’; it was rocky and rugged and rather gnarly. It wasn’t ‘commercial’ and ‘touristy’ … it was real, with working fisherman and kayakers and seals!  It wasn’t what I considered to be ‘scenically boring’ … it was dotted with hundreds of islands, with pine trees and rocks and eagles and osprey flying overhead. In short, I would have to be blind not to admit that it was amazingly beautiful.

Now I don’t know about your experience, but mine is that if you give a guy an inch, he’ll take a mile! And in this case, at least, before I knew what was happening, my husband was looking for a piece of coastal property to buy! Oh, NO!!


  We were looking in the Casco Bay area on some peninsulas in an historic little town called Harpswell, Maine. They call all the islands there the ‘calendar islands’ because in a relatively small area there is nearly one for every day of the year. The coastline is so jagged that this tiny town has more of it than any other place in the United States! Yes, I’ll admit it WAS pretty, but suddenly we had found a private peninsula with an adorable guest cottage, and before I knew what hit me we had bought it. This was two years ago … and my husband was in his glory.  I, however, was in a state of shock! What had I gotten myself into?


Our Harpswell cottage is about 2 ½ hours from my magnificent mountains, and only half an hour from where our daughter lives in Portland, Maine. Dana, my husband, would go there every chance he got; and sometimes I would accompany him. Our property is almost 2 acres in size, with 500’ of ocean frontage; a craggy, rocky shoreline, and a bit of a sandy beach. We have a deep water dock and a mooring for my husband’s sailboat.  Our cottage is adorable, but seasonal, and we have to drain the pipes and close it up each winter. 

It was built 3 years ago as a guest house, the ‘main house’ having not yet been built when we bought it.  As my husband started planning where he wanted to eventually put the house, and even started drawing up floor plans(!), I started to panic big time. I’ve never been agoraphobic, but the wide open spaces there made me uncomfortable; too exposed! And even though the neighbors were lovely people, I’ve always lived out in the boonies, and never lived next door to anyone. Here I felt like I was in a fishbowl. I would wake up at night and feel like we’d made a big mistake. And so the fortune cookie was uncannily perceptive when it asked me, “Would you rather live in the mountains or by the sea?”  To me, it was a No-Brainer:  MOUNTAINS!!!!


Funny thing, though … over time, things have a way of growing on you. The sea can be very contemplative and soothing. (It can also be the opposite!!). It is a great place to relax, and as a writer, it is very conducive to my work.  There is no place like the sea to know the meaning of ‘change’, and to understand the concept of how nothing ever stays the same. On land you only get this realization as the seasons change every few months. But at the sea, the tides come and go twice a day, fluctuating about 14’ at our latitude, and making the scenery enormously different. Rock ledges suddenly appear where there were none a few hours before, now becoming the resting place for a battery of harbor seals napping in the sun. Land bridges appear between islands, where only hours before sailboats were safely gliding through. Seaweed islands suddenly become my ‘mountains’, and at low tide I can walk to them and climb up on top. The bay is deep; deep enough for occasional whales. At 75 feet at low tide in the middle, huge square rigged ships were built just ¼ mile north of us for over a hundred years.

And so, I am learning to appreciate a new kind of beauty at our cottage on Sunset Cove.  In fact, it became the focal point for our family reunion just two weeks ago … and so ensconced did I become there, that I totally forgot that I missed my deadline for the Mountain Farmgirl last week! Oops!!

Eleven of us converged on this little peninsula of ours for one of the most special weeks I have ever known.  Our entourage consisted of our two oldest sons and their wives, one from the DC area, the other from Pittsburgh; our daughter from Portland, and our youngest son Josh who still lives with us at home. Also included were my in-laws from PA, and my husband’s sister from California. We had a super-fantastic time kayaking in the bay, swimming in the ocean, playing board games, doing a jigsaw puzzle, reading a book aloud (like in the old days of home schooling).  I experienced magical moments with each of my family members over the course of the week. We played croquet, had cookouts and made s’mores, took long walks, had great talks and watched the sun go down. Being so far ‘Down East’, the sun comes up mighty early in that neck of the woods so close to the summer solstice.  At 4 am it was getting light, and by 4:30 it was as bright as noon.  Imagine!  We kayaked amongst 30-50 harbor seals one day, they came right up to our boats. And one afternoon, we watched a female seal give birth on one of the ‘seaweed islands’ near our dock.  I mean, who EVER gets to see THAT?! It was truly some of the best that life has to offer!



Now rest assured … I will ALWAYS be a Mountain Farmgirl. I may be coming to appreciate the rugged beauty of the coast of Maine, but I will ALWAYS have a foothold in the White Mountains which are my home. But you know the most amazing thing?  We didn’t find this out until after we bought our cottage, but from the living room windows on a clear day, there is a perfect view of my beloved Mount Washington … which is only 10 minutes from our inn here in the Mountains of New Hampshire! ‘Coincidence’? Not a chance!

Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from Cathi,
The Mountain Farmgirl


By: Adrienne
On: 07/03/2013 07:48:09
I know what you mean about the irresistible draw of the ocean. Everywhere I traveled by RV--mountains, prairies, deserts, lakes--the ocean always took my breath away and I always found a reason to linger. We had a cabin in the mountains of southern California but it too was not insulated for winter (although we stayed many weekends in the snow enjoying the solitude). You sound very happy with both environments and you are blessed in your lifestyle. Congratulations!
By: Victoria
On: 07/03/2013 12:48:53
Cathi, how blessed you are to live in TWO beautiful places. I cannot imagine. I live in So. California. Yes, the weather is delightful, but I do wish our seasons were more pronounced. They are very subtle, so I take full advantage of the small changes. I was born in the midwest and grew up on the west coast. I've made the big historical trip back east a few years ago and was just enthralled with the history, architecture,etc. The humidity, not so much. The inside of my home is totally early American primitive. I'd live in a saltbox, if I could! Your good fortune is unbelievable! The cottage made me sigh. Enjoy, sister farmgirl! And Happy 4th of July! God Bless America!
By: Pamela deMarrais
On: 07/03/2013 17:17:07
Cathi, you are so blessed! You have the best of both worlds. I grew up near the ocean in MA, in a little town that has 11 ponds. It seemed sensible to me that I would stay near water, but the mountains have called me from Strafford, NH all the way down to the foothills of the Smokies in TN. Your new place in Maine is beautiful, and it sounds like your family feels right at home there already. We farmgirls need to have the courage to try new things,and you have done it.... in farmgirl style!
By: Karin
On: 07/03/2013 19:09:49
Cathi, I would be hard pressed to decide between mountains or the ocean if I had to make the choice. I have always loved the mountains and love to visit the Blue Ridge and the Rockies and others whenever I get the chance. On the other hand, my daughter-in-law's grandmother has a house on the ocean at the Outer Banks where we go at least once a year. There is something magical about being lulled to sleep by the ocean waves. So, sounds like you might have the best of both. I always enjoy reading about what's going on in your life.
By: Darlene Ricotta
On: 07/03/2013 21:29:52
What a wonderful story and beautiful photo's.
It makes me think of where I grew up in Colorado and saw the Rocky mountains out of my back yard, then I moved to Northern California with the ocean view 5 miles out of my front window, I have the Redwoods surrounding me and some smaller mountains but it gives me the same feel and I love it.
I too am a mountain girl,
Thank you.
By: suaan name
On: 07/05/2013 16:59:31

You are indeed a blessed woman to be able to enjoy the best of both the aquatic and mountain world. Your photos are lovely and your writing is superb. I enjoy your blog posts very much as I too am a mountain woman who can enjoy the ocean occasionally. Unfortunately our mountains can get to 100 degrees in the summer at which time I pray for sunset not only for the view but also for the cool.

Thank you for your blog, Susan S.
By: Joan
On: 07/06/2013 21:57:48
Ahhhh Cathi, I can relate to your experience, I am not only a landlubber but a flat land landlubber. Then back in the '60's I moved to the mountain area of Colorado - love to visit the mountains but not live there. Then I got to visit the West coast, nice but not for me, then the East coast way more interesting to me but still I am a flat lander and happy to be here. Thank you so much for the great experiences and hope to see more of that area. So great to be able to have both 'lands' to live in. As always you make it like I was just there. God Bless
By: Debbie
On: 07/08/2013 14:22:26
Hi Cathi! Well, I for one am happy to see you are ' warming up" to life by the sea... it is all the things you said it is and best of all it's a fabulous place to be with family and friends to relax, walk, talk and eat! You have a little gem there and no doubt your grown kids must be thrilled to have it to escape to! It's a lovely new tradition to start and your grands will love it too! :)
Great to catch up with you!
love and hugs
Deb ( beach farmgirl )
By: Miriam Russell
On: 07/18/2013 17:12:53
This is such a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it. You make it so visual and understandable why you love the mountains and are our favorite Mountain Farmgirl.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir