Maine Farmhouse Journal

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Score: Bats 90, Al 0

June 12-14,1999

Penny and I were sitting at the kitchen table about 9:00 p.m. having a late supper on Saturday when she said:

"Look, there's a bat!"


"And there's another - they're coming out of the attic!"

I stepped outside the kitchen door and looked up - there was a steady stream of bats emerging from the eves above my head - just where the bat room joins the main house.

The bats clumsily tumbled out of a hole in the eves onto the bat room roof, then spread their wings and swooped off into the night. Most of them sailed off to the north, over the woods. From their size, they are probably little brown bats, but I couldn't be sure in the dim light.

Most were coming out of the house, but a few came from the direction of the barn. One or two came out of cracks in the roof of the carriage house as well. There was a new bat launched into the night sky every few seconds. We lost count at 90 bats, and there could have been more. The carefully designed and hand-crafted bat houses, in the meantime, stood there mute and empty - and obviously scorned by our bats!

When the out-migration of bats finally ceased, and I felt comfortable that all the bats had left for their evening hunting, I went up into the attic and the bat room. I listened carefully - no squeaks or rustles. I didn't see anything either when I shined a light up into the rafters. Apparently the mother bats have not yet given birth, and we don't have to contend with babies. I resolved to try one of the bat exclusion devices I'd read about, now that we knew where they were getting into the building.

The next morning I got out the ladder and climbed up to the eves to see where the bats are leaving the house. I discovered two holes in the soffit about 1" x 1 " - plenty of room for brown bats. Below the holes are scattered bat droppings, and there is a slight discoloration from their body oils.

I made an exclusion device patterned after one described by the University of Florida in their article Bats in buildings. It was fashioned from 4 mil sheet plastic and shipping tape, and was about 2 feet in diameter at the top to cover the holes in the eves. It tapered to about 1 foot in diameter at the exit end. It was about 4 feet long, and when I stapled it over the holes in the eves it looked like a windsock hanging down. The theory is that the bats can get out, but can't find their way back in. Then they'll be forced to use my bathouses!

The next evening, I sat out in the back yard with a snifter of brandy and a pair of binoculars. The exclusion "sock" hung limply from the eves. I eagerly awaited the bats to start pouring out on their last one-way trip from the house.

8:30 p.m. - nothing stirring

8:40 p.m. - nothing stirring except the mosquitos, who start to feed on me. (Where are my bats when I need them?)

8:45 p.m. - nothing stirring. I ducked into the house to refill the brandy, and brought the cordless phone back outside with me to call Paul and tell him what's going on.

8:50 p.m. - I am in the process of recounting to Paul the progress of the day and my "victory" over the bats. He congratulated me - when I saw a bat emerge from the eves above the exclusion sock and swoop off into the night! Then another, and another! Now there was a steady stream of them - and none are going out through the holes I fixed nor through their "sock"!

As I watched the stream of bats swoop off into the night, if they could laugh, I'm sure that they were doing so.

I didn't bother keeping count - I'm sure the score is still "Bats 90, Al 0".

Paul and I now have the challenge of locating and sealing off all the holes the bats are using until they will be forced out the one-way exit rigged up for them. Even though we lost another battle, the war continues! In the meantime, the bats are doing a damn fine job keeping the black flies and mosquitos under control around the place - we can use the pool and not get eaten alive by bugs.

Our Woodchuck Family

Penny and I spent an enjoyable breakfast on Sunday morning watching a mother woodchuck and a little of three juvenile woodchucks play in the backyard. They've made a burrow under the board walk that goes from the back kitchen door to the pool. They couldn't see us, but we had a full view of their movements through the bay window by the kitchen table.

Happy was anxious to get out and play with these creatures, but we kept him in, and distracted him by his breakfast.

Two young woodchucks
inspect their world

We only saw two of the young first, poking their heads in and out of their burrow. I was a bit worried that their mother was dead. There had been a dead carcass floating in the pool a few weeks ago, but I was almost certain that it had been a dead muskrat. I hadn't looked real closely at it when I disposed of it, however, and I wondered how close a drowned woodchuck would resemble a dead muskrat after floating in the pool for a while.

However, later in the morning the mother woodchuck emerged from the burrow, and led all three of her young off on a journey across the yard towards the back of the barn. There they went - nose-to-tail - like a small furry brown train!

I suggested to Penny that woodchuck is very tasty. They're all grass and clover fed, and have wonderful dark meat - just right for grilling. She didn't think that was a very good idea at all - so I guess our woodchuck family is safe living in our back yard.

More Farmhouse History

In our continuing curiosity about the Farmhouse and its various owners over the years, Penny and I visited the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds in Portland on Monday. We started with our deed, and worked backwards in time looking up the deeds and property transfer records in the big books at the Registry that go back into the 1700's. Each deed normally contains a reference to the previous transaction, citing the book and page, so that you can look it up and go further backwards.

We traced the ownership of the Farmhouse back until 1930, but the 1930 deed didn't refer back to the earlier transfer or sale. There are ways to fill in a gap like this, but we didn't have the time on this trip to unravel the mystery. Something for another visit to Portland!

We have been able to account for more than 100 of the 170 years the Farmhouse has stood. Here's how the ownership record looks as far as we've been able to fill in the blanks:

Ownership Dates, Years Owned and Owners

Prior to 1830 to about 1891 - 60 years
John and Jane Meserve

1891 to ????
Unknown - we need to fill in this gap

???? to 1930 - unknown
Fred L. and Lillian A.P. Meserve

1930 to 1947 - 17 years
Ephraim and Lunetta Chessey

1947 to 1956 - 8 years
George E. Jr. and Ephraim Chessey

1956 to 1976 - 20 years
Richard W. and Dorothy L. Howard

1976 to 1986 - 10 years
Dorothy L. O'Donnell

1986 to 1999 - 13 years
Edward F. and Dorothy L. O'Donnell

The Farmhouse was shown on this 1871 map of Baldwin and Sebago as J. Meserve's place. This probably means that it continued in the ownership of his widow after his death in 1868, although she is not listed in the 1870 Sebago census. She reappears in Sebago in the 1880 census, living as an aunt in the William Haley Jr. household on the west side of town.

J. Meserve's farm is shown
on the 1871 Sebago town map

We will continue to try and fill in the gaps to assemble the history of the Farmhouse and the families that have lived there over the years. If anyone has any information, we would be very grateful to have you share it with us.

Derek Graduates!

On Sunday, we were very pleased to see our grandson Derek graduate from Wells High School in Wells, Maine. We arrived nearly an hour early, to get good seats - folding chairs in the middle of the athletic field. It was a good thing that we did, because the crowd started filling in almost as soon as we arrived to our third-row seats. Derek went off to get his cap and gown on, and his sister Kimberly circulated with her friends from school. Meanwhile, we sat and broiled under the hot June sun.

The new graduate and
his proud parents

The ceremony finally started around 3:00 p.m., from a platform set in the middle of the ball field. After the processional of the 89 graduates, accompanied by the high school band, the speeches and presentations began. I was surprised to see that there was no opening prayer nor invocation - only an "inspirational message" about how good it would be if everyone listened to each other. Oh well, times have changed since the dark ages when I graduated.

An occasional breeze stirred the tops of the pines around the field, once and awhile bringing a little relief to the sun-baked crowd. Meanwhile, an endless string of awards and scholarships were handed out - to well deserving graduates, but before an increasingly uncomfortable audience.

To everyone's relief, a sea fog moved in and the sun was obscured. Temperatures dropped immediately, and there was a breeze. Almost at the same time, the award presentations concluded and the presentation of diplomas began. It was very gratifying to see Derek get his diploma, and we were all as proud as grandparents are supposed to be.

After the ceremony, we all reassembled back at Jim and Allison's for a feed and to congratulate the new graduate in person. He will be going into the Navy in August, and is very excited about that. We wished him well in all of his endeavors - he can go far.

Sebago Planning Board

The monthly meeting of the Sebago Planning Board concluded our visit to the Farm this trip. Our application to conduct a home business (our book business) at the Farmhouse was considered by the board, along with several other applications for various actions.

We had a chance to meet some of our neighbors, and to talk about our plans once we make the switch and move the book business to Sebago. There were a few questions, but the board seemed satisfied, and made a positive ruling in our behalf. That is one more step in the long journey to retirement, and it felt good to have it behind us.

Allen and Penny Crabtree

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Last updated June 21, 1999