Author Archives: BetsyWelch

Testing the feasibility of what seems a ‘natural partnership’

As Children’s Librarian Sharon Moskowitz tells it, the idea behind a new, year-long pilot collaboration between the St. George School and the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) began three years ago with some simple trips up the hill path between the library and the school.
“It started with a modest idea where I made a weekly visit with a stack of books to one of the third grade classes at the school,” Moskowitz explains. “The following year the third graders started coming here for their library visit, just to exchange books. Then the fourth grade teacher approached me and said they’d like to do the same thing. So they were making weekly visits just to exchange books.”

And then the St. George School became its own Municipal School Unit and Mike Felton, the school’s new superintendent, came to Moskowitz with a question. “He approached me and said, doesn’t it make sense that we collaborate?” Moskowitz says. “And I said, yes, it’s a natural partnership. So after having some discussion about it [which involved the library’s board of trustees and other school officials], we decided let’s give it a shot.”

Sharon Moskowitz

Currently, Moskowitz notes, the kindergarten through fifth grade classes come down to the JML each week—the kindergarten through second grade classes come for their “library block” time, and the third through fifth graders come to exchange books. “The library block for the younger kids is 45 minutes, so allowing for travel time down and back up the hill, they are actually here 30 to 35 minutes. There are also days I will go up to their classrooms. We read a couple of books and do an activity—I love to connect an activity with the story, whether a science activity or something like that. It makes it tangible for the students.”

Moskowitz reflects on what she sees as the positive effect on the kids of actually leaving the school and coming to the library. “For one thing, by coming to the library the kids are learning how to enter a public building where there are other users, that there’s a certain element of appropriate behavior required, that this place is not just for kids. And if they don’t remember to bring their books back they can’t get a book that week, so they are also learning responsibility.”

Many of the students, too, Moskowitz notes, “are first-generation library users,” which is not unusual in a rural community and in an on-line culture. That means much of her focus is on showing these novice library users just what a library is all about. “We take a tour of the library so they know what the library can offer them. I try to let them know there are resources here for information as well as for entertainment and that we have computers. But I think that mainly they like to come and look through the books. And every time they come they have a better idea of what they are looking for and what interests them.”

When Moskowitz is asked about what she hopes will come of the students’ more intense exposure to the JML under the current pilot program, she speaks about both short-term and long-term impacts. “I want to see the kids coming in, having an idea of what they’re looking for, being comfortable asking for help, and really being happy to be here—maybe even coming in during non-school hours and coming with their family. I also hope they will become life-long readers, and that they will learn that when they go off into the world that in any city, in any community, a library is one place they can go and be welcomed.”

While the idea of a partnership between the library and the school seems a no-brainer—as Moskowitz points out, “the school and the JML have the same mission, which is to be of service to the kids of this community”—the reason for calling the new school-day programming a “pilot program” has to do with the feasibility of sustaining the new operation while also maintaining and, hopefully, expanding other youth-oriented library services. These include the pre-K and after-school programs, but also special programs such as the exceptional month-long “Leaps of Imagination” arts program for fourth graders.

“The support for the pilot program has been wonderful from both the school and the library,” Moskowitz acknowledges, “but the library is definitely going to need to find extra resources for it. I’m hopeful, though, that as more community people see it in action they’ll understand the benefit and help provide that additional support.”—JW

PHOTOS: Top, Betsy Welch; bottom, Julie Wortman

Sea watchin’ (part one)

Nature Bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Long-tailed Duck

A co-worker of mine recently asked me what I was “on the lookout for” in late fall. I told her “seabirds and hunters.” Her reply focused entirely on the hunter portion of my message and was laden with “you better wear orange” kind of stuff (like I was born in Jersey or something!). I figure that she may not be familiar with “seabirds” or that she just doesn’t really care/think much about them. (The truth most likely being a fine mix of the two options). Seabirds may not be for everybody, I guess. But they are stacking up in a harbor near you just waiting to be observed!

Young Northern Gannet

“Seabird” is a loose, generic term referring to any species of bird that spends much, if not all their time at sea. Birds like tubenoses (shearwaters, albatrosses, storm-petrels), alcids (puffins, murres, guillemots), gannets and certain species of gulls and terns may spend their entire lives in and around the ocean, visiting land only to nest. These birds truly are pelagic.  Other birds such as loons, grebes and sea ducks nest on inland and northern freshwater ponds and lakes in the late spring and summer and then may spend the rest of the year in salt water.

Seabirds put a twist in the generalized understanding that “birds head south for the winter.” For these avian buddies, the coast of Maine may be their “southern” destination—potentially having travelled thousands of miles for the honor of keeping their featherless feet in the Gulf of Maine’s chilly waters all winter. These are hardcore visitors.

The “primo” way to observe sea birds is, of course, by getting on the water. However, many people don’t keep a boat in the water this time of the year, and some may even have had their sea kayak crushed in the “Storm of 2017” (that was me!). For those folks, doing a “sea watch” from land offers a great, and sometimes an even better, alternative for watching seabirds rather than heading out for a rocky ride on the sea.

Harlequin Duck

Finding a “comfortable” spot out of the wind and with a view of the ocean are key for a good sea watch. Places like Marshall Point and local harbors and coves can offer protected and sheltered waters for overwintering/visiting birds, often resulting in close views.  Binoculars are a must for sea watching—and a spotting scope can really expand your range of observation. Bringing coffee, tea or warming beverage of your choice is also highly recommended.

November was a wonderful month for observing from Marshall Point. “Standard” seabirds, species I saw on every visit, were Common Loon, Northern Gannet, Surf Scoter, Common Eider, Red-necked and Horned Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser and Long-tailed Ducks. This is an excellent group to be able to watch on a regular basis. Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Black Duck have become standards for coves and harbors as well.

And as with anything in nature, you never can tell what might show up on a sea watch. “Non-standards” or infrequently seen seabirds that I have observed from Marshall Point recently have been Red-throated Loon, Harlequin Duck, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, as well as Purple Sandpiper, Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle on the islands and ledges just off the point. The sea watching has been great to say the least.

And with fall wrapping up and things freezing up north, sea watches should be getting even more productive as more and more birds show up for the winter, warming an observer to the soul even on the coldest days. It’s always the right time to be outside, so warm up some grinds, grab your binos and we’ll see you out there.

Fibonacci

Recently in math class, we seventh-graders have been studying some number patterns that are repeated throughout the universe. We learned about a young boy named Leonardo Fibonacci, who grew up in medieval Italy.  He loved numbers and spent his life studying them. He discovered that many things in nature follow a certain pattern. He is famous for his word problem about multiplying rabbits, that you may have heard about.  But we learned that you can see the Fibonacci sequence of numbers in so many things: the spirals in pineapples, pine cones, sunflowers, tree leaf growth. And ram’s horns, waves and nautilus shells also all follow the pattern!

 

To get the special sequence you start with 1 and 1. Then you add to get the next number: 2, then keep adding the last two numbers: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,  21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and so on.

To go along with our math, we did artwork based on Fibonacci spirals, which we made using the Fibonacci sequence. We also discovered Fibonacci poems: Poems that use the number sequence to guide the number of syllables for each line. In English Language Arts we wrote poems to accompany our artwork.  These will soon be displayed on the walls at school. Come on in to see them.

Maggie Gill is a seventh-grade student at the St. George School.

A migration of cranes…

The crane is admired for its beauty, and in many cultures is a symbol of good fortune, fidelity, loyalty, long life, and associated with inner and outer peace.

In Japan the crane is thought to be a mystical, holy creature that lives for a thousand years.  Legend has it that anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 origami paper cranes in one year (one for each year in a crane’s life) will be granted their most desired wish.

After a year of engaging in the practice of making 1,000 cranes, it is my wish to release them into the world and to share their blessings and beauty.  A migration of sorts…

They are $1 each, singly or in strings, to benefit the St. George Fire and Rescue. Find them at the CDC office, the library, town office and Port Clyde post office.

—Wende McIlwain

Letters

To the editor:
We want to commend Alane Kennedy for the super job she did in organizing the first annual community Thanksgiving dinner.  The process of bringing the community together—the food, the volunteers, the camaraderie—was just outstanding.  As new home owners to St. George, we were impressed with the caring exhibited with this event.
Mel and Diane Myler

A letter from The Dragon staff

Dear Friends,
As we approach the end of our fifth year of publication, we are celebrating our 100th issue. We wish to thank the many businesses and organizations who have supported us by advertising in our pages and in our online edition. We couldn’t do this without you! Many of our advertisers have been with us since the very first issue on May 9, 2013, which featured a cover story about the recent refurbishment of the Laura B, Monhegan Boat Line’s familiar ferry vessel (right).

We also thank our loyal readers, who engage us with comments, story ideas, letters and photos. We love to hear from you—keep it coming!

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year!

        Julie Wortman & Betsy Welch

It’s Christmas Fair time at a Grange that has become an important community center

Carol Paulsen

This year, on the morning of Saturday, December 2, Carol Paulsen will arrive at the Grange Hall in Wiley’s Corner by 7am “to get the coffee pot going.” She’ll bring two double batches of cinnamon buns—six dozen—that she’ll have mixed up earlier that morning and will set them out to rise. Then she’ll start making the muffins that will later be for sale on the food table. Her cinnamon buns will be fresh out of the oven when the Grange’s annual Christmas Fair opens at 9am.

It’s a routine Paulsen has followed for many years. As the busy day hums into high gear, she will be joined by other Grange volunteers, each tending to their own set of tasks.

“We have a good crew—everyone pitches right in and helps,” Paulsen says. “We have a good time doing it and I won’t say there’s anybody is the boss of it, everyone just pitches right in and does what they see needs to be done.”

Paulsen, now a grandmother of adult children, grew up across the road from the Grange Hall and has been a Grange member since she was 14 years old. “There was nothing else to do in those days and we could walk across the road to the weekly Grange meetings, which I remember seemed quite long. But afterward the grownups would go downstairs and have coffee and we kids would stay upstairs with a record player and dance. All the kids in the neighborhood would join once they turned 14 for that reason.”

The Christmas Fair is one of two major annual fundraisers for this Grange (a harvest fair occurs in October). Twelve tables are available for rent by people who have things to sell—lots of handmades along with a variety of collectibles. Paulsen and the other kitchen volunteers are hard at it all day: first, supplying soup, biscuits and hot dogs for lunch and then after about 3pm, when most of the fairgoers have left, preparing dishes for the Grange supper that begins at 5pm, to which other Grange members will also bring dishes to share.

In recent years the money generated by the Christmas Fair has gone into an extensive program of repairs and renovations to the Grange Hall itself. “We’ve raised all the money to fix up the Grange Hall by having our monthly suppers and having our fairs,” Paulsen says with a note of pride. Building rental fees have also provided income.

With the Grange Hall now in good physical condition—and with the programmatic shift away from the Grange’s historic focus on farming that has occurred over the past several decades—the Grange’s members have begun turning their attention outward to other community needs. In this regard, Tammy Willey, who in addition to serving on the St. George Select Board is both secretary and treasurer of the Wiley’s Corner Grange, points out the organization’s recent decision to create a fund that the teachers at the St. George School can use to purchase materials for use in their classrooms rather than paying for these supplies out of their own pockets. “The community has supported the Grange as we made upgrades at the Grange Hall, so we thought now it is time to give back to this great town. The Grange sends money to the state Grange to support the Howes Nursing Scholarship and to support junior Granges, but we decided the teachers at our school also need support.”

Another recent community-minded Grange project has been the Window Dressers Community Build. Grange member Barbara Anderson, who began volunteering for Window Dressers in 2012, has been a driving force behind getting the Grange involved in this non-profit program aimed at providing energy-saving window inserts to participants at no cost except a voluntary donation and some volunteer hours if possible. The frames for St. George were built at the central production facility on the ground floor of Lincoln Street Center in Rockland and then transported to the Wiley’s Corner Grange where volunteers did the taping, wrapping and finishing work.

“We had 176 inserts to build for about 15 homes and for the vestry area of the First Baptist Church, which is where they hold services for the smaller congregation all winter,” Anderson says. “We started measuring windows in June, when we first had only about five orders. As word spread, we took on more and more requests including a few from Thomaston and Owls Head, but most of our customers for this build are from the St. George peninsula.”

Anderson adds a personal observation about the good the Window Dressers project brought to St. George. “My impression is that those who volunteer generally have a good time, feel rewarded by all they produce and definitely appreciate the ‘community’ provided by a community build. I saw new friendships develop and old acquaintances re-acquainted.”

Tammy Willey working on the Window Dressers project

Willey agrees that the relationships people develop are one of the most important reasons the Grange continues to be a healthy organization. She recounts her own experience by way of proof. “I got interested back during the St. George Bicentennial because we were selling T-shirts and throws and I got talking to the ladies up here. I remember sitting next to Cindy Montgomery, who has since passed away, and talking about the Grange and what they do and then I started coming to the meetings to see what was going on. I think it was the people who drew me in the most because everybody was so friendly and community-oriented.” After a pause she adds, “Yes, that’s what attracted me to the Grange, the people.”

Paulsen sums it up succinctly. “It’s a good building to have in the neighborhood—[these days] it’s a better community thing than a Grange thing.”—JW

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

History of the Grange

December 4th of this year will be the 150th anniversary of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, commonly known as the Grange.  Born out of the interest following the Civil War to assist in the rebuilding of the Southern farms, it is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope.

Oliver Kelley was an employee of the federal Department of Agriculture and was sent to the southern states to review the post-war situation.  Being a federal employee, especially from the North, his presence was not well received.  However, he gained favor with Southerners who shared his membership as a Freemason.  Southern Masons provided him with the contacts as he toured the war-torn South and was shocked by the outdated farming practices. He saw the need for an organization that would bring people from the North and South together in a spirit of mutual cooperation and, after consultations with other interested parties, the Grange came into being.

In its early years, the Grange was devoted to educational events and social gatherings. The organization was unusual for its time because women and any teen old enough to “draw a plow” were encouraged to join. The importance of women in the organization was reinforced by requirements that four of the elected positions within a locally chartered grange could be held only by women.

The Grange has always focused on policies, not partisan politics.  One of its specific objectives states, “We shall earnestly endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry and all selfish ambition.”  Some of the policy changes they championed were lower rates charged by the railroads and the beginning of rural free mail delivery by the Post Office.  The Grange also endorsed the Temperance movement and women’s suffrage.

When the Grange first began it borrowed some of its rituals and symbols from Freemasonry.  It also borrowed from Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible. Small, ceremonial farm tools are often displayed at Grange meetings. There are seven degrees of Grange membership—the ceremony of each degree relating to the seasons and various symbols and principles.

The first Grange in town was the St. George Grange at Wiley’s Corner, founded in 1903.  The Ocean View Grange in Martinsville followed in February of 1906.

 —John Falla

Berries birds like in winter

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Winterberry

Start with some wind, add a little rain and then cool down the temperature a bit. Mix all this up in November and what do you get? Canopies that were once robustly covered with green leaves start to peel apart. Leaves suddenly (or not so suddenly) drop from their perches, falling and dancing their way to cover lawns and inspire raking sessions. Obstructed views open almost overnight, and in some places worlds of nutrition and sustenance, previously sheltered, are exposed as fruits, seeds, and nuts are in clear view for wildlife of all kinds. Yes, this is a wonderful time of the year.

Cruising the roads of St. George these days it’s hard not to notice leafless shrubs covered in red berries. And while there are several species of shrubs with red berries, the luscious fruits of the deciduous winterberry (Ilex verticillate) seem to dominate the roadsides. A member of the holly family (Aquifoliaceae), winterberry branches can be covered with berries which will remain on plants well into winter. This trait gives the species its common name.

Cedar Waxwing

Medium to large sized song birds such as waxwings and thrushes (Hermit, Swainsons and American Robin predominantly) can converge on a winterberry thicket and pick it as clean as their gizzards will let them. Mimic thrushes (Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Grey Catbird) defend individual shrubs from other birds and mammals, claiming the fruit to be for their bills only. In fact, just the other day I was accosted by a Grey Catbird who didn’t like strangers getting too close to its claimed winterberry shrub. I bet that catbird stays north until those berries run out. It didn’t seem like it was going to give up that tasty food anytime soon.

Another berry some birds like is the good ole bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica) from the wax myrtle family (Myricaeae). A small shrub with waxy leaves, bayberry grows groups of black berries in globular clusters. The berries have a white wax covering that results in a grayish appearance for the berries.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The wax covering of bayberries prevents most songbirds from accessing the fruit or obtaining any nutrition from eating them, but  bayberries are highly attractive to one of my favorite songbirds—the Yellow-rumped Warbler (aka Myrtle Warbler or also lovingly known as “butterbutts”).  Yellow-rumpeds are unique in the warbler world for producing an enzyme that allows them to digest wax and thus as a species they view bayberry as an extremely valuable food source. With limited competition for the berries, butterbutts are known to overwinter along the coast of Maine years when bayberry fruits are bountiful. They regularly overwinter further north than other warblers in North America largely because of their connection to bayberry.

Both bayberry and winterberry are native to Maine and are recommended for yard landscaping to encourage observable wildlife by providing animals with food and habitat. Regardless of whether it’s in your yard, along a road, or in the woods—late fall is an exciting time to keep your eyes on those winterberry and bayberry shrubs, and on what songbirds and animals might be eating them! Enjoy!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen