Author Archives: BetsyWelch

Jackie Metivier: A rich St. George life that began with a summer job

Jackie Metivier (l) and Ann Goldsmith, friends since working at Blueberry Cove Camp together in the early 1950s

by Steve Cartwright

Jacqueline Metivier, known to her friends and neighbors as Jackie, has lived in the former Martinsville Post Office overlooking Mosquito Harbor for more than half a century. Now retired from a career in education, she listens to jazz and enjoys a lively game of Scrabble. She loves her flower gardens and enjoys the constantly changing weather she sees out her windows each day.

Jackie first came to St. George in 1951, when she took a summer job at Blueberry Cove Camp. She was then a student at Plymouth Teachers College in New Hampshire, her home state. The camp, founded by Bess and Henry Haskell, had then been in operation for just three years, believed to be the first interracial summer camp in Maine. Jackie said she was especially touched when Bessie baked her a cake for her 21st birthday that year. “I swear, that was my first birthday cake,” Jackie said, a reference to a childhood in an unstable family.

Ann Goldsmith, former owner-director of Blueberry Cove, was a fellow counselor with Jackie during those early years at the camp. She recalls that Jackie “was an experienced counselor in charge of the swimming program (yes, we went swimming everyday in the frigid water), a bit tough on the kids though always fair. Nobody, adults or children, messed with Jackie, and we all learned a lot from her example. She had a knack for bringing out the best in kids.”

Lionel “Hap” Metivier had the post of head counselor at Blueberry Cove and soon became Jackie’s boyfriend. Their courtship lasted two years, “because we couldn’t afford to get married,” Jackie says. For their honeymoon, they stayed at “Lee Shore,” the farmhouse owned by the Haskells. It’s the same house where I spent childhood summers.

Jackie’s Blueberry Cove experience reinforced her interest in teaching, leading her to apply for a job teaching at St.George High School, which stood where the town office is located today. She recalls that when she asked the local superintendent about the job, he said, “When can you start?”

At the old wooden high school Jackie taught four English classes as well as civics. “I enjoyed teaching,” she says. “And I loved politics. There’s too much emphasis now on math and science, and not enough emphasis on participating in your government. How do we expect them to vote intelligently?”

In those days, high school was about as far as most kids went, Jackie notes. “They [the boys] all wanted to go fishing. The girls married the boys.”

Jackie also remembers my father, also a teacher, coming to talk to her class about his post-war work in India bringing medicine to villages. One pupil, Jimmy Skoglund, she recalls with amusement, wondered why Indian people didn’t speak English. “It’s so much easier,” Jackie remembers Jimmy saying.

While Jackie taught at the St. George High School in the mid-1950s, Hap worked as teaching principal at Rockport elementary school. In those years the couple lived upstairs at the first Jackson Memorial Library on Main Street in Tenants Harbor, and managed the library during the hours it was open.

Jackie recalls a town meeting on establishing the St.George Elementary School, which meant closing Clark Island’s one-room schoolhouse. When someone in the crowd said a teacher could be found for the old school, she describes standing up and saying, “I just graduated from a teachers college and I know a lot of young teachers, and none of them would want to teach at a school where you have to use the back-house!” The crowd’s reaction pleased her. “Everyone stomped and clapped. The vote carried.”

During her time at the high school Jackie took a second job as a waitress at the old Thorndike Hotel in Rockland, where male patrons would touch her in unwanted ways and leave big tips. At one point she and Hap went to Germany. During their time there Jackie bought a bikini. She smiles at the memory and says she believes she may have been the first woman in St.George to wear one.

The couple went on a Fulbright scholarship to Japan in 1956-57, teaching English as a second language in Yamagata. When they returned to the states they attended the University of Michigan, where Jackie earned a master’s degree in library science, and Hap worked on his doctorate in linguistics. She tried teaching school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, and recalled that when she reported a child she thought was being abused at home, officials told her to keep quiet.

In 1960, Hap and Jackie bought the old post office on the shore of Mosquito Harbor for $8,000. People told them they paid too much for the two-story building, which after much remodeling became their home. Now, she says two years’ worth of property taxes comes to about as much as the purchase price.

Also in 1960, the teaching couple moved from Michigan to new jobs in Brockport N.Y. There, they adopted twins, a boy and a girl, Michael and Michelle. Michael now has a home in St.George and Michelle lives in Rockland. Although they remain married, Hap and Jackie have lived apart since 1985. Jackie returned to Maine with the children that year and found her niche as librarian at Hall-Dale High School in Hallowell, living in Farmingdale and spending summers in Martinsville. She happily returned to Martinsville full time when she retired in 1994.

Jackie was a close friend to my mother, Sally, who lived in Tenants Harbor for years. The two of them sailed together in Sally’s 17-foot sloop, “Sea Chip.” They figured out that to get along, Sally did the sailing, Jackie did the cooking.

For many years, Jackie shared her home with a second cousin, Ramona. Now she shares it with Daisy Mae. “A dog is the only unconditional love you can find,” she observes. She’s given up driving and is grateful for the Neighbor to Neighbor program that provides rides for free. She recently had a heart attack but says it hasn’t slowed her down or dampened her spirits.

Her life, she said, has been “quite a challenge. We lived through it, and got stronger.” A spunky person since childhood, Jackie still likes a good laugh. As I stood up to go after our interview, she quipped, “So, can I expect to see this story in Cosmopolitan?”

(Steve Cartwright is retired from print journalism. He continues to write and take pictures. He lives in Tenants Harbor with cats Tang and Seasmoke. He directs the annual Blueberry Cove Camp half marathon and serves on the camp’s board of directors.)

PHOTO: Steve Cartwright

No barreds held

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Barred Owl

Catching a view of an owl is always special. Even if the Great Horned Owl you are mesmerized by is flying away with your cat, chicken or small child (never happened) there is still a burst of “man, that was so cool” that runs through your veins. That’s how cool it is to see one.

In the avian class—“birdies” if you will—owls have the order strigiformes all to their own. The order can be split into two owl families—tytonidae (17 species of “Barn Owls”) and the strigidae (164-ish species of “typical owls”) for a total of 181 owl species worldwide. In North America we have 19 species of owls that breed, representing 11 different genera and both families. Eleven species of owls live in Maine or visit here a portion of the year. With owls being so widespread, it’s no surprise that the St. George peninsula is a destination, a hunting and wintering ground, and a rest area to many owls each year.

For much of winter, the grassy ledges off Marshall Point are good places to scan for Snowy and Short-eared Owls (and Rough-legged Hawks) hunting by perch or on the wing. In some irruptive years Snowies have been so numerous on the peninsula that owls have ended up in St. George yards, perching on rooftops and bird feeders. Small numbers of Saw-whet Owls overwinter in the woods and even smaller numbers (and not necessarily yearly) of Long-eared Owls hunt fields and field edges from perches. With their mostly nocturnal ways, these two species are tricky to observe while a species like the Great Horned Owl can turn up just about anywhere. “Rarity” species like Great Grey, Northern Hawk, and Boreal Owls are not out of the question either, just pretty unlikely to see. And then you have Barred Owls, which might be the most mysterious owl of the bunch.

Based on observations from others, Barred Owls appear to be the most numerous owl seen and heard in St. George. The chatty, year-round residents can be heard hooting their “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call in local woods just about any night of the year, and sometimes during daylight hours as well. They are comfortable hunting when the sun is up and for the most part don’t appear to mind the presence of humans.

Owl pellet

Barred owls also leave sign of their presence in the form of pellets. Most birds eat their food whole, and many species will regurgitate the undigestible parts of what they ingest in the form of “pellets” rather than have them pass through their digestive system. Owl pellets are loaded with bones and fur, and tend to stay intact for a long period of time (months even!). Pellets are a wonderful clue to an owl’s presence and diet, and they are as much fun to take apart as they are to find! Look for “good” perches in areas where you have heard or seen Barred Owls and you are likely to find these balls of fur and bones. In a yard where we previously lived one tree had 12 Barred Owl pellets underneath it! I checked under the tree daily and for a stretch of time I would recognize newly dropped pellets and yet, I never did see the owl.

For all the pellets, all the chatter, and all the habits that can have them active before dark, Barred Owls are hard to observe and there remain a lot of “unknowns” about their behavior. I think their use of tree cavities for nesting and (possibly) resting plays a role in this. Other owls are easy, Barreds tend to confuse. They are literally their own breed of owl.

Over the last month or so I have heard of more than eight reports of Barreds turning up in yards around the peninsula­—with more observations undoubtedly occurring. Are young dispersing? Is it a migration from the north or local owls hitting up rodent-loaded areas? Are Barreds more likely to hunt in the day when it gets cold? Unanswered questions that lead to more unanswered questions. So it goes.

And while we always feel lucky to have crossed paths with owls, there is the understanding that at least a chunk of the time when we see owls it is because they are stressed or hurting. A Long-eared Owl hunting in the afternoon is hungry. Hungry enough to break its “strictly nocturnal” label because survival is on the line. Not saying we should release mice in our yards to provide meals for owls, but if you do find a compromised owl the folks at Avian Haven in Freedom ((207) 382–6761) do a great job “fixing them up and getting them back out there”.

See you out there!

PHOTOS: Top, John Meyer, below, Kirk Gentalen

What is a makerspace?

by Cecil White

Seventh graders Cecil White and Chase Jansen (with Leilani Myers photobombing) created Star Wars fighters in the makerspace at St. George School.

A makerspace is a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing, innovation, or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge. St. George School has had a makerspace for about three years, thanks to the generous support of the Perloff Family Foundation, Wick Skinner and the Maine Community Foundation, as well as the enthusiastic support of school staff, students and community.

Mr. Meinersmann is in charge of the makerspace at St. George School. He helps kids program machines and build things. The most challenging and fun part of his job is “to prove that kids can do anything and helping them prove that to themselves.”

Before the makerspace became what it is today, Mr. Meinersmann’s title was the Technology Director. In that role, he helped make sure the phone system was reliable and made sure the kids had working laptops for school work. He still has that title and those responsibilities, plus now he gets to use a whole bunch of fun equipment in the makerspace.

There are many tools in the makerspace, such as seven 3D printers, a CNC machine (CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control), laser cutter, soldering station, plus some older tools from when St. George School had “shop” or Industrial Arts and “home ec” or Family and Consumer Science.

Ms. Palmer also works in the makerspace, “and beyond, to bring a ‘maker’ mindset into classrooms.” She solves problems and creates with the younger students, focusing on hands-on projects. Fifth graders have programmed with Spheros. Fourth graders have made ornaments using the laser cutter, and have built and wired model houses using the 3D printer. Second graders have learned to code and solve engineering problems. Not all the projects depend on the new machines. First graders have made syrup by tapping trees and experimented with light and sound. Kindergarteners have made pumpkin pie using garden squash and played with forces and motion.

Ms. Palmer and Mr. Meinersmann both lead two after-school programs: the Lego Robotics Team and the 3-5 grade STEAM club. Lego Robotics is a group of kids who collaborate to solve world-wide problems and they use Legos and programming to help solve them. The STEAM club focuses on technology skills, especially programming.

Bryson Mattox (grade 7) working on his salinity device

There are lots of cool things you can do in the makerspace. Up in the makerspace people like me can learn how to program, build things like robot cars, or learn how to design things on CAD (Computer Assisted Design) websites. Some ideas of things you can build are chess pieces, board games, statues and a whole lot more. For example, at Christmas I made some personalized ornaments for my family. Recently, some classmates in seventh grade made a 3D laser-cut scene from a book they read, and others are designing a Monopoly-type game board with places from the setting of their book. A classmate, Bryson Mattox, is constructing a device to measure the salinity in the marsh as part of the alewife restoration project in Mrs. England’s science class.

In the future, we hope that all community members could have access to our space and the training to use the equipment so everyone can design and make their inventions.

As a seventh grader, I am very grateful that we have this space. I like the makerspace because it gives me time to myself to do something else other than traditional school work. It’s a relaxing environment where I can be creative and proud of my work.

PHOTOS: Paul Meinersmann

Kitchen garden talk: Where do you get your seeds?

In France they call them “potages” and in Scotland “kaleyards,” but here in St. George we know them as kitchen or vegetable gardens. In any event, eating out of one’s garden is not a new thing on this peninsula, where residents have been growing their own food since settlement, mostly out of a need for self sufficiency and thriftiness. These days the satisfaction that comes with eating out of a home garden not only continues that tradition, but also has a lot to do with gastronomic pleasure—nothing tastes so good as a freshly picked tomato or head of lettuce—not to mention the satisfaction that comes from doing right by our families (giving them whole food), and our planet (walking out to harvest from the garden doesn’t leave much of a carbon footprint).

Because we think St. George’s large gardening community has a lot to share about growing vegetables, fruits and herbs, with this issue of the St. George Dragon we are launching “Kitchen garden talk,” a regular feature that we expect to be both useful and enlightening. The“talk” we are after is of the sort that regularly takes place as fellow gardeners stroll among one another’s vegetable beds. The topics will be familiar, but no less engaging for that—ranging from favorite crops and plant varieties to how best to meet the challenges presented by weather and pests. In each issue we’ll pose a question aimed at eliciting “garden talk” from our gardener readers. In the following issue we’ll publish as many of the responses we get as space makes possible.
Since January is when kitchen gardeners begin thinking about what they’d like their gardens to produce during the coming growing season, we have primed the pump by asking some of the kitchen gardeners we know about where they go to get their seeds and why. Here are their answers:

Bethany Yovino, Wallston: Typically I buy most of my seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine—the locavore in me likes to shop local, plus the quality of their products is always top notch and they have such an extensive selection of both organic and nonorganic. I love nothing better than perusing the Johnny’s catalogue on a cold winter day in front of my wood stove! I also support FEDCO Seeds in Clinton, Maine [with a mailing address in Waterville] as they have a good selection of seeds that work well in our colder climate. Renee’s Garden is also a company I like. I was initially attracted to their attractive packaging but have since learned they are a company that donates seeds to a wide variety of organizations and educational programs worldwide. You have to love a company with a social conscience. Their products are all free of GMOs.

Jane Bracy, Hart’s Neck: The gardeners at Blueberry Cove Camp are getting together this month to plan out the garden for the upcoming season. At this meeting we’ll talk about what worked last season and what didn’t. We get input from the cook and assistant cook to see what they need and would like.
We buy organic seeds, mostly from Johnny’s and FEDCO. We are also going to try some seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont this year. We start some of our seeds in the main building at the camp as there are great windows facing west. We also have a very little greenhouse that we can put things in as it warms up a little. We get potatoes from the Maine Potato Lady.

Susan Carey, Tenants Harbor: My two main sources for seeds are FEDCO and Johnny’s. They are both Maine seed providers and understand the nature of our climate. Their catalogues are also fun to read, particularly FEDCO, whose honesty extends to listing one heritage tomato as looking “like roadkill.” After one use, I toss all onion and parsley seeds since their germination drops dramatically after year one but store all others in the freezer and (using a germination chart) continue to use them until their period of viability dwindles.

I currently have a heated glass greenhouse off the kitchen, but before the greenhouse, I started seeds in the attic under shop lights fitted with one standard bulb and one greenhouse bulb. I banged my head on the slanted eaves, occasionally lost seedlings to predatory mice and loved the plants I grew. Then as now I started allium seeds at the end of February, setting the pots on bottom-heating pads until the weather warmed. By the end of March the greenhouse is crowded with seedlings and I harden my heart to my least favorite chore—thinning the leeks.

Patty Cole, Martinsville: Seed selection is very much a process for me. The process takes place early January in my bathtub each year, candles lit. I thumb through every catalogue (this may take a few nights). I end up choosing Johnny’s Selected Seeds for most of my seeds. Very excellent customer service and I like that they are employee-owned. But I love ALL of the catalogs … winter dreaming!

Next issue: Our question for the February 14, 2019 issue has to do with favorite varieties of vegetables—pick any vegetable(s) you plan to grow and tell us what your favorite variety is and why. Send your response by February 4 to julie@stgeorgedragon.com or drop a note at Julie Wortman, St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860. Please supply your name or initials and where you live in St. George (i.e., Martinsville, Port Clyde, Clark Island, etc.). Thanks!

Reminder

A reminder to all St. George households, especially those of federal employees impacted by the government shutdown, that the St. George Community Cupboard, located at 47 Main Street in Tenants Harbor, offers support to all St. George residents. Stop by any Thursday from 2 pm to 7 pm to learn more about local assistance or give us a call at 207-372-2193.

A renovation ‘to improve flow, to have it not be cramped, and to improve the standard of care’

Glenn Yovino stands by the new dental work station at Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital.

The staff isn’t parking on the grass to make room for client vehicles in the parking lot and construction crews are no longer taking care to keep clear of four-legged patients and people with pet carriers awkwardly navigating their way to the entrance. Even the faux log-cabin siding is gone. It’s been a long seven months, but only the final landscaping—which will happen in the spring—is missing from the newly renovated Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital on Route 131 just north of the St. George town line in South Thomaston.

“This project has been a couple of years in the planning,” says Harbor Road owner/vet Glen Yovino, noting that actual construction began last June. “The hard part was that we had to keep working because it was the beginning of our busy season.” So St. George builder David Miller (of J.D. Miller Construction) and his crew had to stage their work so that Yovino’s staff were able to keep up with the practice’s work load through a busy summer, while the hospital’s staff had to make sure Miller’s crew had maneuvering room.

Yovino, who for the previous five years had been working in a Rockland veterinary practice, had bought the building in 1995. “The building was two years old at the time. It had been designed as a vet hospital for a staff of three vets, an office manager and five or six employees. It was the nicest vet hospital in the area when I bought it.”

Early on, Yovino worked alone. “It was just me. Then we had a part-time vet and she eventually became full time and then we hired another vet. We’ve got 15 employees now. We’re a much, much busier practice than anyone would have predicted based on our location [part way down a peninsula].”

But being on the St. George peninsula was exactly what Yovino hoped for from the first. Although he didn’t grow up in St. George, his mother was from Port Clyde. “My parents and my grandparents owned the Port Clyde store in the late 1960s and while my parents didn’t live here year round, my grandparents lived here and ran the store. So we were here a lot.”

A couple of years out of veterinary school, when Yovino took the veterinary job in Rockland, he and his wife Bethany moved to St. George. “I like my practice’s location. I’m on the peninsula but not too far from St. George. My kids went to school in St. George and at George’s Valley. I practice here because I like the people. We’ve got people’s kids who now bring their animals in. I like that side of it and I like that people know me and call me by my first name. Part of the appeal of being here was to be the vet in the local area.”

The decision to expand and renovate the facility, Yovino explains, was prompted by practicality. “I needed to remodel. The roof, the siding, the windows—they all needed to be fixed. When we started planning the project I was 55 and I figured I was going to be here for at least another 10 years. The idea was that I wanted a nice place to work, not to expand the business. We are still seasonal, although it’s less seasonal than it used to be. The idea was to improve flow, to have it not be cramped and to improve the standard of care. The idea is that pet owners aren’t going to be spoken to in the lobby, that we have the ability to spread out.”

Yovino ticks off just how cramped and difficult things had become: With only two exam rooms, all three vets couldn’t see appointments at the same time. With no other space available for treating dental and non-surgical patients, the hospital’s surgery was pressed into service for procedures beyond its intended purpose. A single small office served the needs of three full-time vets and an office manager. Lab equipment and pharmaceutical supplies were confined to a small space inhospitable to multiple users. The laundry was inconveniently in the basement.

“We now have five areas where we can work on animals, including a whole little wing just for dentistry, as opposed to one surgery and so we can now more easily keep the surgery clean and sterile,” Yovino says with clear satisfaction. A spacious corridor at the back of the building efficiently linking the hospital’s vets and staff to the three exam rooms also provides an ergonomic work space for laboratory equipment and for storing and dispensing pharmaceuticals.

Many of the details Yovino likes best about the renovation have been suggested by Michael Steitzer of MSA Architect in Topsham. Steitzer’s wife is a vet, which has led him to develop a specialty in designing veterinary facilities. “Mike gets so many of the little things,” Yovino says with evident appreciation. “We pointed out that in the old scheme we couldn’t use our microscope if the centrifuge was on and he came up with a simple way to separate the two so that the vibration of the centrifuge didn’t affect the microscope. There were lots of things like that.”

Yovino also took care to include the staff in decisions that might affect them. “I told the staff, ‘I’d love your opinion,’ and there were a lot of opinions. I just didn’t want to hear about things they didn’t like after the fact. I also told them, ‘We’re probably going to lose one of you during this project’ because of the stress of trying to work during the construction process, but we didn’t lose anyone.”

Asked if he believes the renovations at Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital are “state of the art,” he gives a positive nod, adding, “The only thing we’ve spared is architectural extravagance. We were working with an existing structure and I didn’t want to blow it all up. The fact that everything has to be ADA [Americans with Disability Act] compliant added a lot of expense. So we’ve tried to make things look nice and I like it, but we’ve been conservative in our extras.”

The chief one of these, he says with a laugh, is that he now has his very own own 8’ x 9’ office. “I just couldn’t be here for another 10 years and have everybody working around me and dealing with every [random] question coming in.” The relief he feels of being able to occasionally shut the door and work quietly at his desk is evident. “It was a long process of getting to this point,” he admits, “but I’m drained.” Luckily, he adds, “At this time of year things get quiet and I like that.” ­—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Pardon the irruption

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Common Redpoll

As if winter weren’t “cool” enough, there’ a sweet migration pattern that can supply any winter season with a unique make-up of avian species and associated population dynamics. Instead of a regular, yearly movement that many species follow (spring-and-fall songbird migration for example), the key to this flavor of migration is that it’s not repeated annually. Instead of decreasing day length and hormones inspiring an exodus, the motivating factor in these non-annual cases is a crash in food availability. A substantial drop in resources to the north can result in a southern invasion of huge numbers of any affected bird species. When occurring, this pattern is (lovingly) referred to as an “irruption,” and irruptive species in these cases can be either predators or seed-eaters.

Snowy Owl

Raptor species such as Rough-legged Hawks and Snowy Owls irrupt on somewhat regular cycles that are connected to population cycles of grassland/field rodents (four-to-five-year cycles) and snowshoe hares (10-year cycles). These are the irruptions you can count on, and are much appreciated accordingly.

On the other hand (or wing), seed-eating songbirds that feast all winter on conifer cones, catkins and fruit will all irrupt on an irregular and unpredictable basis depending on seed crop failures. “Winter finches” (Common and Hoary Redpoll, Evening and Pine Grosbeak, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin and White-winged and Red Crossbills) are a group that irrupts under these circumstances and may show up in big numbers that light up forests and feeder stations with energy and color.

Evening Grosbeaks

The McConochie feeder system off the Turkey Cove Road in Tenants Harbor recently played host to about 50-plus Evening Grosbeaks! About the size of a robin, Evening Grosbeaks bring a striking pattern of bold yellows and black-with-white wing patches with a honkin’ seed crackin’ bill to boot! The McConochies report that they’d never seen Evening Grosbeaks on their property before and that after a week of gradually diminishing numbers the birds finally cleared out, taking their irruptive ways to new grounds.

And Evenings were not the only grosbeaks that found their way to St. George after the cold stretches and snows in the last third of autumn. Small numbers of Pine Grosbeak have been sprinkled throughout peninsula forests as well, and their calls add an alternative to the sound of a cold breeze! American Goldfinch, Common Redpoll, Red Crossbill and Pine Siskin have also been observed on the peninsula as of late, providing views of some seriously hardcore song birds (ones that regularly overwinter well north of mid-coast Maine). It’s also a glimpse into what can be assumed is a winter food shortage further north. Minor giddypation for the rest of our finchy winter and whatever else may work their way down the peninsula. But with the irregularity of it all, technically this could be it already for the winter finches. Only time will tell, and winter’s only starting today!

Pine Siskin

Another winter-fruit-reliant species with irruptive tendencies observed recently on the peninsula is the Bohemian Waxwing. While Cedar Waxwings are a common species and sight in St. George during the summer months, their northerly cousins tend to stay at upper latitudes unless encouraged (prodded) south by a lack of food. Keep an eye on local plants that hold berries and fruit into the winter, or may even be leaking tree sap for these medium-sized songbirds to feast on. Bohemians will even join Cedar Waxwing flocks that may be overwintering in neighborhoods. Picking apart a flock of Waxwings often turns up a Bohemian treasure or two this season!

When these irruptive songbirds invade an area in numbers, it’s not surprising that predator species may irrupt as well and follow the songbirds south. The Northern Shrike is a predatory songbird that makes occasional irruptions depending on both songbird and small-mammal population abundance to the north. These killers–nicknamed “butcher birds” for their habit of impaling prey on thorns and barbed wire–can send winter finches darting for their lives with fast chases and aerial pursuits. It’s a predator/prey relationship that migrates, part of a northern ecosystem that sometime visits us for the winter!

It’s good not to take things in life for granted. With the size of some winter irruptions and the associated unpredictable timing pattern they follow, it’s almost impossible to “ho-hum” these species when they arrive at your feeding station or in your neighborhood.
The season is starting off somewhat irruptive already. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open and enjoy it while we’ve got it, because with these species—who knows when we’ll see them again?

PHOTOS: Common Redpoll, Kristen Lindquist; Evening Grosbeaks, John McConochie; Snowy Owl & Pine Siskin, Kirk Gentalen

St. George second graders do ‘school swap’ with West Bath

Isabelle (right) is my friend from West Bath school. She loves her teacher. She said not to use plastic. Isabelle is a great student.
—Madison Staples (left)

The St. George School’s second grade crew spent the fall learning about schools and communities. To foster new relationships and expand our views, we participated in a school swap with the second grade crew at West Bath School, where they were also completing the same unit of study. The entire second grade crew from West Bath School came to St. George School and each student spent the day shadowing a St. George peer. Students interviewed one another to find similarities that connect them and differences that inspire them. Our students then used the information gained in peer interviews to begin exploring paragraph structure and practice a new domain of writing. Below are samples of their work.
—Alison Babb, Grade 2 teacher

Zaden (left) is my best friend at West Bath School. Zaden is eight years old. He takes the bus like me. Zaden is silly. Zaden is a great friend.
—Phoebe Salo (right)

Maggie (center) is a lovely person at West Bath School. She is eight years old. Maggie is nice to me and she loves to learn. Maggie is a great friend.
—Brynn Viles (right)     Baya Healey is pictured at left.

Letter

To the editor:
Over this past fall, the 200-year-old Tenants Harbor Baptist Church has undergone renovations to the church’s steeple. The major repairs have been needed for over a decade and we are pleased to announce that the work, done exceptionally well by J. Richardi Construction Inc., is now complete. The project was made possible by a grant fund of the Maine Community Foundation.

On December 16, we marked the completion of the project with a ceremonial ringing of the church’s bell, located atop the steeple in the belfry. Prior to the renovations, we were unable to ring the bell.

The church, founded in 1842, has been a central figure in Tenants Harbor and the larger St. George Community. With the church sitting high on the hill on Main Street, the steeple has been referred to as the “Lighthouse on the Hill.”

Now that the renovations are complete, we’re excited to have our “Lighthouse on the Hill” back in working order.

—Walter W. Desruisseaux, Sr., Tenants Harbor Baptist Church

A service project aimed at providing some Christmas joy

The 5th grade crew is doing a community service project for the Portland Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. What we are doing is donating books to kids with cancer and other diseases. We wanted to do it around the holiday to give the books to them on Christmas.
We did a Read-A-Thon, which is where you could donate money to the kids in the 5th grade crew for reading books. We got sponsors and got certain amounts of money for how many pages or chapters or minutes or books we read.
We want to make all the kids at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital filled with joy this Christmas. Our class made a goal of how much money we wanted to earn which was $200. We have over $800 now! On December 20, we will go to the hospital and deliver our books and a check. Thank you all for sponsoring us and I really think that the kids at the hospital will love it!
—Karly Putansu, Grade 5

PHOTO: Christine Miller