Author Archives: BetsyWelch

A new headquarters for the St. George Historical Society

The trustees of the St. George Historical Society look forward to a “soft opening” of its new headquarters on Saturday, November 30th. Please come visit us from 10am to 4pm and see what we have done and what we plan on doing at 38 Main Street.

With this property, the Historical Society has four locations from which to promote and preserve the history of this fantastic town. The Andrew Robinson Homestead at Wiley’s Corner focuses on the village of Wiley’s Corner, the Robinson family of St. George, the history of farming in St. George and the Fort Point State Park. Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum in Port Clyde focuses on lighthouses, maritime history of the town, and the village of Port Clyde. The Schoolhouse Museum next to the Town Office focuses on the schoolhouses and education of St. George students. The property at 38 Main Street, that will be known as The Old Library Museum, will include a reference library, a home office for the Society, storage area for some of its collection, plus lots of display areas that we plan to rotate on a regular basis. The reference library includes books on local, regional and state history, plus books on local, regional, state and New England maritime history. It will also include books on local and regional genealogy to assist people in tracing their family trees. There has also been mention of a section of the library dedicated to local cookbooks.

The Old Library Museum will also have permanent displays for Lillius Gilchrest Grace and Mary Elinor Jackson. Lillius Gilchrest Grace was born in St. George, the daughter of a sea captain. She traveled the world and had a very interesting life, but never forgot her friends and family in St. George. Mary Elinor Jackson was also the daughter of a sea captain. She was very interested in education, promoting reading and learning for the people of St. George.

Mary Elinor Jackson

Mary Elinor Jackson saw the Age of Sail at its peak, as well as watched its decline. Her family’s fortune was soon depleted as times changed and railways replaced sailing ships. Miss Jackson and her brother lived in a house down behind what is now Tenants Harbor General Store. Upon her death in 1933, the house and small piece of land upon which it sat was left to her niece and nephew, who sold it to Mary Elinor’s friend Nellie MacKenzie. As a tribute to Miss Jackson, Nellie MacKenzie, Eleanor Aldrich and others worked to get the house moved to Main Street, where the four Long sisters donated a piece of property at the corner of Main Street and Water Street, and a lending library in memory of Mary Elinor Jackson was created in 1935.

Nearing its 50th anniversary the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) was in need of more room to meet the needs of a modern day library. In the later part of 1987 the library saw an addition, known as the Annex, added to the original structure. However, a fire in January 1988 caused extensive damage, but through a great amount of community support the necessary repairs were made and by the summer of 1988 the JML was reopened.

As the JML approached its 75th anniversary, the character of public libraries had evolved and were more than just a lending library—more room was needed. A building committee was formed and plans were developed to build a new library across the street at the corner of Main Street and Juniper Street. As the building plans were being finalized in 2012, the Lillius Gilchrest Grace Institute (that had built a youth center next to the St. George School) decided to make a gift of its building and property to the JML for its new location. Shortly thereafter the move was made.

With 38 Main Street being vacant, the Select Board decided to lease the property to Anne Klapfish for her retail shop known as Stonefish. With her untimely death in the summer of 2019, the building was once again going to be vacant. While the Select Board were considering their options of what to do with the property, the trustees of the St. George Historical Society approached the Board with a proposal to lease it, and they agreed.

—John Falla (Falla is president of the St. George Historical Society.)

‘Yuletide in St. George’— a uniquely local kickoff to the holiday season

This Thanksgiving weekend, as big box stores around the country promote Black Friday deals and big discounts, St. George shops, restaurants, galleries and organizations will open their doors to welcome local families and visitors to “Yuletide in St. George,” our uniquely different, community-wide celebration of the holiday season. From the town line to the tip of our peninsula in Port Clyde, red “Yuletide” lawn signs will identify the 20 locations participating in this year’s holiday kickoff event. And, by Thanksgiving morning, bunches of evergreens with bright red bows, created by Girl Scout Troop 1831, will decorate streetlights in our village centers to welcome visitors to our community.

Ancho Honey, at the corner of Wallston and Port Clyde Roads, will have lunch available on Friday and Saturday afternoons. On Saturday only, the East Wind is serving brunch in the Quarry Tavern; the library has scheduled a book signing, book sale and soup-and-bread lunch; and the St. George Historical Society is hosting a “soft opening” of their new space in the Old Library Museum.

Craft fair lovers, please note that the Ocean View Grange Christmas Craft Fair and Luncheon, held on Thanksgiving Saturday for the last 15 years, has moved to the Black Harpoon. Donna Cline’s Old Moose Crafts Fair has also moved, from its 2018 location at the Odd Fellows Hall to the American Legion in Tenants Harbor. Girl Scout Troop 1831 is providing breakfast and lunch treats at the Legion on Saturday.

Though originally conceived as a retail-focused event to benefit the town’s shop owners, Yuletide in St. George has grown to become more than just a two-day shopping weekend. This year’s celebration of the holiday season begins with a Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday afternoon, November 24, and includes community-wide events throughout December, including the arrival of Santa in Port Clyde on Friday evening, December 6, and his journey via fire truck to the Town Office in Tenants Harbor where the second annual “Light up the Knight” and lighting of St. George’s holiday tree will take place. Anyone who brings a non-perishable food item or unwrapped new toy to the Town Office by 6:30 pm on Friday evening, Dec. 6, will have their name entered in a drawing to be the lucky person who throws the switch to “Light up the Knight.”

St. George Business Alliance (SGBA) members, Yuletide sponsors, and all the local organizations participating in this year’s holiday events—including the St. George Town Office, the St. George Fire Department, the St. George Community Development Corporation (CDC), the St. George School, the Jackson Memorial Library, the St. George Historical Society and the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum—wish neighbors, friends and family members a joyous holiday season.

Yuletide in St. George event maps will be available at participating locations and online at the SGBA’s website (, or download it here.

(Limmen is a member of the SGBA Yuletide in St. George organizing committee.)

Taking a first step to understand—and plan for—the impact of sea level rise in St. George

Sea level rise threatens St. George roadways such as this section of Route 131 in Martinsville.

On November 14th members of the St. George community will have an opportunity to hear from representatives from the Island Institute, The Nature Conservancy, the Vinalhaven Sea-Level Rise Committee, and the Midcoast Economic Development District about the possible impact of sea level rise on municipal infrastructure and services. “I hope people will take this threat seriously,” says St. George Town Manager Tim Polky. “The first step is to raise awareness, and then figure out down the road what’s needed to address the issues.”

With its 125 miles of shoreline, sea level rise poses a number of pressing questions for St. George. What are reasonable predictions for how much sea level will rise in the next 20 years? What can we do as a community to protect our municipal infrastructure, ensure first responders can access all residents, and shore up impacted commercial and personal property?

Global sea level has risen by about eight inches since record keeping began in 1880, according to the 2017 U.S. National Climate Change Assessment. However, local sea level rise is accelerating due to two global factors. The first is the warming ocean, because water takes up more space as it warms. This increased volume of water in the Gulf of Maine is the main factor driving the anticipated higher sea levels in St. George.

The second factor adding to more water in our oceans is melting land-based ice sheets and glaciers. Conservation Commission member Dan Verillo says: “We believe that sea level rise is an aspect of climate change that will have an impact in our immediate future, that is, in less than 20 years. Other aspects of climate change are just as important, but sea level rise is not disputed any more. Data suggests that a rise of two feet cannot be avoided even if the world immediately does everything the Paris Agreement demands. Therefore, St. George should prepare for the inevitable.”

A publication by the Island Institute, “Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding,” states: “On average, sea levels are projected to rise another one to four feet globally by 2100, but sea level change will vary regionally (2017 U.S. National Climate Change Assessment). The Gulf of Maine is especially susceptible to fluctuations in sea level due to changes in the strength of the Gulf Stream and seasonal wind patterns. Sea levels in the Gulf of Maine are projected to rise faster than the global average.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), higher sea levels also mean more frequent high-tide flooding, especially due to stronger storms that are happening more often. This high-tide flooding, also called “nuisance flooding,” temporarily leads to road closures as well as overwhelmed storm drains and erosion of roadbeds. For this reason, Polky notes, St. George’s road maintenance plan is already taking future flooding into account.

There are predictions that the sea level in St. George will rise one to two feet by 2040. Most experts agree that by 2100, a year today’s kindergartners will see, at least a four-foot sea level rise in St. George is the most likely outcome. Polky and other town officials expect sea level rise could adversely affect the town’s municipal infrastructure, delivery of emergency services, planning ordinances, natural resources, tax base and local economy.

For the town’s Planning Board, for instance, rising sea level calls into question how best to apply the state-mandated shoreland zoning ordinance both in terms of new construction and in terms of existing structures that begin to enter the zone. In addition, says Planning Board chair Anne Cox, the number of shoreline stabilization projects being proposed seems to be increasing.

“As property owners have experienced higher tides, and storm-driven tides, their land has eroded,” she says. “We on the Planning Board have seen quite a few applications to stabilize the shore by adding some sort of rock “armor.” Sometimes these applications have included plans for re-vegetating behind the rock with mat-forming native plants to help hold the shoreline. I want to learn about the efficacy of these different stabilization projects. For example, I have questions about the effect of one section of shore being armored on neighboring unprotected areas. Does the addition of rock in one area increase the erosion of a neighboring area? Also, we have recently seen one stabilization project being proposed to address a stabilization effort that was inadequate after just seven years. So do these stabilization projects even work with rising sea levels?”

The likely impact of sea level rise and more frequent flooding on the local economy and the town’s budget and tax base is also a particularly thorny topic. First, marine-based businesses, which are a significant part of the town’s economy, could experience significant losses and capital costs. Second, sea level rise may seriously impact private property values—homes on the water, in particular, could lose value as the floodplain encroaches and they are forced to carry expensive flood insurance. Richard Cohen, who is on the St. George Budget Committee, asks, “What’s going to happen to the tax base when homes lose value? We have to look forward 30 years right now.”

The community meeting on sea level rise and its potential impact on municipal infrastructure and services that will be held at the town office on November 14 at 7pm, is intended to be a first step in taking that look into the future. The agenda for this meeting includes presentations by Susie Arnold of The Island Institute on the science of sea level rise and Jeremy Bell of The Nature Conservancy on computer tools for predicting how the St. George coastline will be impacted. Highlights and challenges from other communities tackling sea level rise will be presented by Gabe McPhail, Community Development and Engagement Coordinator for the Town of Vinalhaven and Bill Najpauer from the Midcoast Economic Development District. This meeting is supported by the Budget Committee, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Select Board, St. George Municipal School District, St. George Community Development Corporation, St. George Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Association, and the Island Institute and The Nature Conservancy.


Quoted paper from Island Institute: Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding The Basics for Maine Communities Pager – Sea Level Rise.pdf

Knox County Mitigation Plan

Is Sea Level Rising?

NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer

PHOTO: Anne Cox

Of coral, tongues, and jellies

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Spindle-shaped Coral mushroom

The rains came early this fall. So early, in fact, that it was technically still summer—August even—when the rains fell that inspire our traditional fall mushroom bloom and that is fine. These early showers, however, were not followed by the September rains we’ve had the last two years. The result was a fall where many “regular” mushroom species were present in the woods, but in significantly lower numbers than the last couple of years. This inconsistency is often referred to in the business as “nature.”

The mycorrhizal fungi that produce many of the ”traditional” mushrooms are surely doing well, still living in the ground and enjoying the sugars of their symbiotic relationships with neighboring trees. For whatever reasons, this fall did not provide the right conditions for these fungi to pump out their spore-dispersing apparati (that is, mushrooms). And yes, King Boletes was one of the many affected species. Makes you appreciate those big years even a little more, as if that was even possible.

To be clear, though, we are not saying that the fall 2019 mid-coast Maine mushroom scene was a dud at all. Just a little different, as the early rains inspired different species to bloom that maybe were under-represented the last few years. On one two-mile hike my family counted over 30 Destroying Angels (Amanita virosa), way more than we’ve come to expect on a simple stroll. Did you see a lot of Destroying Angels this year? And where these angels are pure white, many of the fungal species that took advantage of the earlyish rains added an array of colors to the woods.

“I thought Coral was only found in the ocean” is an actual quote and it is a good one. There is, however, a group of mushrooms (the Coral Mushrooms–family Clavariaceae) whose fruiting bodies over the eons have adapted and developed mushrooms whose structure closely resembles that of some oceanic corals. They are a group of many colors, but their fruiting bodies remain coral-ish, and they had a bomber fall for sure!

Violet-branched Coral

White and tans are common within the Coral family, and the bright whites of Clustered Coral (Ramaria botrytis) and White Coral (Ramariopsis kunzei) seemed to line every trail and path, clumping along roots and debris. Violet-branched Coral (Clavulina amethystine), has added some nice shades of purple in the woods as well. I can go years without seeing the C. amethystine. It’s a “treat year” to see multiples in my experience. And this year certainly has been a treat!

My favorite coral (I will play favorites until the end!) this fall has been the many sightings of Spindle-shaped Yellow Coral—Clavulinopsis fusiformis. Stretching from August into early October, clumps of the Spindle-shaped Coral lit up the forest with yellow like no other mushroom. It was a pleasant arrangement. So wonderful to find!

Towards the end of October things changed and Irregular Earth Tongues (Neolecta irregularis) had taken over the “provide bright yellow along trailside” color niche. Earth Tongues (family Helotiales)—are sometimes thought of as “coral mushroom wannabes,” but these tongues are cool, oddly clubbed-shaped, and tend to be less clumpy than coral mushroom species.

Green-headed Jelly Baby

Earth tongues also happen to be representatives of the large mushroom group Ascomycetes. The kingdom of Fungi is divided in two groups–the Ascomycetes (subdivision Ascomycotina) and Basidiomycetes (subdivision Basidomycotina)—and the difference is in the development of spores. Ascomycetes’ spores develop in round, saclike microscopic structures called “asci.” Basidiomycetes’ spores develop, one source says, “on appendages protruding from variously designed (usually club-shaped) microscopic structures known as basidia.” Neat, huh? Anyway, the mushroom photos and discussion often focus on Basidiomycetes, nice to get some Ascomycetes in the mix!

Another group of Ascomycetes mushrooms representing and adding color in the woods have been the Jelly Clubs, also known as Jelly Babies. Both local flavors—Yellow-headed (Leotia lubrica) and Green-headed (Leotia viscosa)—have been doing their things and adding more fall colors. What a nice alternative to looking at leaves!

My favorite fall color is probably orange, though, and there is no better orange than the Orange Jelly (Dacrymyces palmatus). These jellies are actually Basidiomycete mushrooms and the Orange Jelly variety holds a special place in my mushroom history. There are no poisonous jelly mushrooms, and the Orange Jelly mushroom itself is tasteless and made up of something like 95% water, so they are safe to eat. They also happen to grow everywhere and with that in mind I have had the pleasure of eating this mushroom with thousands of kids all over the country. Since that impressive nor’easter a couple weeks back, the Orange Jelly seems to be lighting up the woods and, needless to say have been poppin’ in our mouths as well!

Oranges, yellows, greens, and purple—just a few of the colors that make each fall in New England so special. Only time will tell if “shroom peepin’” takes the place of “leaf peepin’,” but my guess is when the leaf-heads realize its easier to look down at the shrooms than up at the leaves (what a hassle!) shroom peepin’ will become the tradition. It’s just a guess.

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

Schools, St. George and West Bath second graders agree, are important

St. George second graders visit West Bath School as part of their Fall Expedition

by Trinity Delaney and Addison Beal

Second graders in Ms. Babb’s class at the St. George School are in the middle of a learning expedition about schools and community. Students are researching schools in communities around the world—from West Bath, Maine to Port-au-Prince, Haiti—and working hard to understand why schools are important.

The last week in October the St. George second graders traveled to West Bath to spend the day with the second graders at West Bath School. St. George students were each paired with a student from West Bath and spent the day shadowing their buddies. They conducted interviews with their West Bath buddies and learned about why school is important to them!

All the students agreed that schools are important. Iris says, “School is important because you get to learn at school.” Koby said, “You wouldn’t learn without school.”

The students noticed that the West Bath School is different. It’s smaller than ours and it’s only K-5, so there are no big kids. Everyone had lunch together. They have a library that was connected to the school but in a separate section of the building. Most of the second graders loved the playground and recess. They said the West Bath playground had bouncy equipment that was fun to play on. Liam liked attending their CREW meetings because he got to socialize. They all loved meeting their buddies.

On October 29, the West Bath buddies returned the visit and spent the day at the St. George School. Everyone had a great time and now the St. George second graders can think about their new friends learning in their school in their own town and they can think about our second graders learning here.

(Delaney and Beal are 6th grade students at the St. George School. Ms. Babb also contributed to this story.)

PHOTO: Alison Babb-Brott

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies for two new public trails to be held on Nov. 10

The Bamford Preserve

Join the St. George Conservation Commission and its partners, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Georges River Land Trust, on Sunday November 10 for ribbon-cutting ceremonies and the official opening of two new public trails in town. Festivities will begin at 1pm at Bamford Preserve on Long Cove Road, where we will walk the new trail down to the shore for an apple-cider toast and some treats. The trail is an easy 0.3 miles long and suitable for all ages.

After the Bamford Preserve walk, we will be celebrating the opening of the new Meadow Brook Preserve on Turkey Cove Road at 3pm. This trail is an easy 0.7mi loop and also suitable for all ages.

Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome, and the event will go on light rain or shine!

Due to limited parking at Meadow Brook Preserve, we will car pool from Bamford to Meadow Brook. The Bamford parking area is located at 105 Long Cove Road, where the old Woodcrafter’s building used to stand. For questions, please contact Ken Oelberger at or (207) 607-9785. Or, just show up!
—Ken Oelberger

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

‘We’re calling ourselves the ‘new Herring Gut’

Herring Gut students with educator Georgie Burruss

It may sound a little crazy to call an organization that has been around for more than two decades “new,” but at this point in its history the board, staff and students at Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde do seem to have the sense that their organization has undergone a transformation.

“When I joined the board a little more than two years ago, it was really at a point where people were shaking their heads and saying, ‘What do we want to be when we grow up?,’” says Kathleen Barker, who became Herring Gut’s executive director in August of 2018.

At that particular moment Herring Gut had completed two decades of working hard at developing a successful program of community-based, hands-on marine science education for St. George students. This was an approach to education that Herring Gut’s founder, Phyllis Wyeth, had hoped would equip local youth with the marine science knowledge and practical know-how that would allow them to earn a livelihood from the sea just as their families had been doing for generations—despite the fact that it was clear that the traditional fisheries were being depleted. But during those early years of bringing students to learn aquaculture at what was first known as Marshall Point Sea Farm, this kind of hands-on learning had been labeled “alternative education,” something only fit for students who were acting out in traditional classrooms out of frustration with trying to learn through academics-as-usual.

Still, over its first two decades of operation, Herring Gut had developed the physical infrastructure and curriculum-development experience to be able to offer meaningful instruction and experiences in aquaculture, aquaponics, marine science and even business to an increasingly wider range of middle-school students, middle- and high-school educators, summer campers and community members.

Executive Director Kathy Barker celebrating HGLC’s kelp farming program

The “aha” moment for that head-shaking Herring Gut Board was prompted, in part, by the fact that the relatively new St. George Municipal School District was embracing the very type of hands-on expeditionary learning model of education that Herring Gut had been pioneering for years. Seeing Herring Gut through that lens made it clear that Herring Gut, in fact, was already “grown up”—that what had been considered merely an “alternative” approach to education in general—and to marine science education in particular—was now being actively celebrated as cutting-edge and beneficial for all types of students. The question, then, was not about having something valuable to offer, but about how to significantly “scale out” what Herring Gut was already offering. And the key to scaling out, it seemed clear, was to not only work directly with as many students as possible, but to also work with many more teachers. Last year Herring Gut reached 499 students from over 28 schools. This year, Barker says, the number of students Herring Gut expects to reach is double that number, thanks to a new teacher-training it was able to provide at Messalonskee Middle School in Belgrade Lakes.

“The way we got into the Belgrade Lakes area was that a Herring Gut friend and donor, Don Borman, came to us and said, ‘We are doing so much in our district about the water but our kids need to be the ones involved.’ So with the aid of a two-year grant from his family foundation and additional grants from the Simmons Foundation, the Onion Foundation and the Sewell Foundation, we wrote a curriculum called “Fresh Water Forever” for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. Then we took all the science teachers from that middle school and did three days of professional training with them. One of the grants also allowed us to go buy all the equipment they each needed in their classroom. So we developed this enthusiastic core of science teachers who are so excited to teach their kids all the different components that lead to healthy watersheds in their community.”

Now, Barker says, the goal is activism, encouraging students to become stewards of their watershed. And promoting healthy inland watersheds, Barker stresses, has everything to do with Herring Gut’s original mission of promoting a sustainable fishing economy in St. George and other coastal communities.

“Our kids here in St. George are hearing about climate change, they’re hearing that the fish are going away, they’re hearing from their families about maybe we should go into kelp farming. So they are living all of this climate change in an economic reality and that can be scary. So we’ve decided let’s embrace that. Phyllis’ focus was always on ocean stewardship and sustainability. And how can we not tag healthy climate onto that? So Herring Gut is really about ocean literacy, which involves inland watersheds as much as coastal communities, and it is about climate literacy. So we’re educating these kids here in the midcoast but also looking at how to educate students in classrooms elsewhere and we can do that by educating teachers.”

The Belgrade Lakes project also involved building new relationships, Barker adds. “This was a collaborative effort with Colby College Environmental Science Department, with the Seven Lakes Alliance as well as with the Borman Family Foundation. We are able now to support the teachers this year with an educator who will travel out there, help in presentations, help with any further development of lessons, build their confidence and knowledge base so they feel really prepared to go forward.”

To Barker, getting the “Fresh Water Forever” curriculum into more Maine schools holds a great deal of promise for having a significant impact on the state’s water quality. “That’s because, as they say, all the water runs down hill. So if we want our water here to be healthy water we need kids inland to know about healthy water. And so as we talk about what does the future hold for Herring Gut, that’s probably a lot of what it is. We’re calling ourselves the ‘new Herring Gut’—we still have a core mission of hands-on, innovative ocean marine science experiences focused on the students and community of St. George, but it is not just for St. George anymore. We’re scaling out our passion for ocean literacy and climate literacy this next decade.”

The only limitation at this point, Barker admits, is staffing. Herring Gut relies on fundraising, grants, and some income from the school districts who benefit from its educational programs. This year a fall fundraising drive in Phyllis Wyeth’s memory hopes to benefit from a Matching Gift Challenge good through October 31. To find out more go to or call 207-372-8677. —JW

PHOTOS: Courtesy Herring Gut Learning Center

Lessons from the grave

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Ring-necked snake (very alive)

Happy and safe Halloween everybody!

Fall is here and the St. George peninsula is knee deep in it. Colors have changed, leaves have left and “crisp” has become the adjective of choice when describing the days. Loads of life and lessons in the out-of-doors right now, and at this time of the year some of those lessons about life come via death. Heavy, I know. There may be no scarier place for animals, and no better place to look for the remains of critters than the streets. Yes, it’s another road-kill update!

I start by mentioning that I am not a fan of road kill in any way, though I can imagine scenarios where one isn’t completely heartbroken when a “nuisance animal” or an overpopulated deer is sprawled out on the side of a road. But I am not one of those people, at least not currently. I do believe, however, if an animal gets nailed by an automobile and is left in a state of minimal grossness, then there is nothing wrong with taking a closer look. For sure, road-kill lessons are usually flavored bittersweet, but they are there nonetheless, ready to be absorbed.

Some folks prefer to look for road kill from cars, especially larger road kill like porcupine and skunk. But ask anyone who walks, however, and they will tell you “if you want to see dead stuff, walking is the way to go,” as pedestrians move at slower speeds and have a lot of road to inspect. In these regards, biking seems similar to walking (especially at the pace I pedal), but with biking you can cover more ground and, in theory, expand your road-kill observation range!

Watts Avenue road kill in Tenants Harbor is usually of the cold-blooded sort (as in cold-blooded animals) and we all know how hard it is to feel sympathy for them (I mean, come on—they can’t even generate their own heat? Have they no hearts?). Anyway, one could play “connect the dots” down the entire avenue of late, with the dots being the carcasses of grasshoppers and woolly bear and tussock-moth caterpillars. Recent lessons have also reflected an increase in ring-necked and garter snake activity—possibly starting to make their way to winter hideouts—as well as amphibian movements after rainy nights. Red-spotted newts (red eft stage), wood frog, and red-backed salamanders have all met their ends on Watts, even with its seemingly low traffic flow. Heck, I went out to take pictures of road kill for this column and as I was turning my bike around to take a photo I crushed a grasshopper with my bike tire! Just adding another “dot” to the local road-kill lesson plan.

And now for something completely different—we got a cat a little more than a year ago. “Vesspurrs” is the name he came with and the one he purrs to, so that’s his name. We added Vesspurrs to the family knowing he was an indoor cat and he hasn’t shown the slightest interest in going out the front door—and lost interest quickly in our awesome, new back door. He basically searches for the next warm spot to nap, and naps are highly advocated around here. Over time, Vesspurrs has made the basement his own “cat cave”—a feline sanctuary in which to hang, do his business, and escape the human scene when needed. Everyone seems happy and the upstairs smells better.

It wasn’t long before Leif found a tick on the cat. All fingers in the house immediately pointed in my general direction, and honestly, it was a story that made sense. Man gives cat a tick—instant classic. But soon Vesspurrs was turning up with gifts I clearly didn’t give him. Gifts for us, like partially autopsy-ized shrews and mice, dead salamanders, and a slightly alive ring-necked snake (that was the best!). All brought up from the basement. And then a second tick. Fingers were still pointed at me again, but with less passion this time.

Vesspurrs and a basement kill

October has been an active month for our indoor hunter. Cricket pieces have piled up—what a year it’s been for them and grasshoppers—and their increased numbers in the wild have been reflected in the amount of “basement-kills.” Among Vesspurrs’ recent catches have also been red-backed salamanders and spring peepers—“rainy night specialties.” He seemed most proud of the spring peeper he caught though, and even woke me up in the middle of the night to show me. The frog was long dead by the time I caught wind of it, one of many hoppers undoubtedly on the move that night. I was able to release one red-backed salamander outside (mostly alive) but found the remains of another a few inches away from its recently removed tail. It’s the cat in him and it was kind of gross to have dead amphibians on the kitchen floor, but he’s protecting us from the threatening critters invading our basement while giving us a hint about local animal behavior! Thank you Vesspurrs!

We’ve always had a “crossing the line when you cross into my house” policy when it comes to local critters, but I’m not sure if we were thinking of amphibians when developing that policy. It’s funny that getting an indoor cat, doesn’t mean zero animal kills by any means. Or how riding a bike doesn’t necessarily mean no road kill. In fact, if I put my mind to it I could probably come up with a somewhat impressive list of animals I have nailed on my bike. But that’s a column for another time—maybe next Halloween! Have a safe one this year by the way!

As far as Vesspurrs is concerned, I’m happy for him. An indoor cat that gets to hunt. And the prey comes to him, he just goes into his cave and waits. I just wish I would stop giving him ticks, for his sake!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

Apples to applesauce

Rose Reynolds

by Trinity Delaney & Violet Ward

Mrs. Albright’s kindergarten has been learning all about apples, intertwined with science, math and literacy.

They learned about the cycle of an apple tree, from seed to tree. They enjoyed apple poems and apple books.

They looked for rhymes in stories—Apples Up on Top, by Theo LeSieg was the favorite. Then they made their own Apples Up On Top book for the class.

They counted apples, working on1:1 counting skills and made applesauce—and EVERYONE loved it!

Jackson Schwab

They also had a taste test. Will red, green, or yellow apples win? Bayleigh’s and Mila’s favorite apple is red. Alphonse likes yellow, and Ivan’s favorite is green! They made a bar graph to record the outcome. They all agree, apples are the best!

Here is their Apple Song:

I’m a little apple
Short and round
I make a munchy, crunchy sound
If you bite into me
You will see
I am as delicious as can be.

(Delaney and Ward are in the 6th grade at the St. George School.)

PHOTOS: Courtesy St. George School

80th St. George Alumni Association banquet

Earlier this year, on May 25, the 80th annual St. George Alumni Banquet was held at the Tenants Harbor Odd Fellows Hall. The mission of the St. George Alumni Association (SGAA) is to foster fellowship of the alumni, assist the St. George School, and help current alumni with post-secondary school scholarships.

If you attended school while living in St. George you qualify for membership in the SGAA. This includes everyone that went to an out-of-town high school and people that only attended for a short while. Current and former teachers and staff are also welcome.

The next banquet will be held on May 23, 2020. Please attend! Bring your spouse, significant other, and children! Contact Sandra Hall ( for more information. The SGAA has an active Facebook page.

Native Plant Corner

Blue wood asters and bergamot seedheads

It is late October and our native plant gardens are still humming with activity. The late asters and some goldenrods still provide nectar and vibrant bloom color as the hues of autumn play out. In the rustle of withered stems and dried seedheads, the gardens will be busy through the winter supporting insects and other critters of all shapes and sizes. So before you choose a lovely autumn day to take the shears and trimmers and rakes into your gardens, consider making two fall and winter garden pledges to dramatically increase the wildlife value of your native garden: “Leave the Leaves” and “Be a Messy Gardener.”

Seedheads left on dried native flowers and grasses are a smorgasbord for resident and migratory birds. Gardens rich in shriveled fruits and abundant seedheads help birds survive in winter, and provide them a healthy start to reproduction success next spring.

October nectaring in goldenrod

The untrimmed garden will also provide habitat to support numerous species of native bees and beneficial insects who use garden spaces to overwinter. Depending on the species, they will take winter refuge under bark or dried leaves, or nest in cavities in hollowed-out stems and decomposing logs. Some will create burrows in the ground to reproduce and ride out the cold winter months. The mourning cloak butterfly will, amazingly, overwinter as an adult butterfly. They find thick piles of leaf litter, a chunk of tree bark, or other cavity to nestle into. Some caterpillars will wrap themselves up in the leaf of their host plant during the winter. These makeshift cocoons are hard to spot in the garden, but the caterpillar stays protected and in a state of deep sleep until the warm days of spring arrive. Other butterflies and moths will overwinter in their pupa cases, suspended under a dried leaf or tucked away under composting leaf litter on the ground. When you resist the urge to clean up your gardens, leaving stalks and stems and withered leaves, you help to encourage a rich population of native bees, butterflies and moths for the following spring and summer.

If birds, moths, bees and butterflies have not convinced you enough, hundreds of other critters can also overwinter in our gardens, including beneficial predatory insects who will be busy controlling other insects in the garden for you next spring. Leaving layers of leaf litter for these animals to burrow under in the winter allows them to get a jump-start on the services they provide next spring and summer.

“Leave the Leaves” provides nourishment at all levels of the food chain.

Delay your garden clean-up until spring, following several 50°F (10°C) days, which will allow overwintering pollinators and other critters to “wake-up” for spring and carry on.

When we allow our gardens to keep their seedheads, shriveled fruits, dried leaves, withered stalks and general “messiness,” we are acknowledging and supporting the importance of biological diversity. We can then observe and celebrate the abundance that resides in and emerges from the overwintered native garden in the spring. —Jan Getgood

PHOTOS: Jan Getgood