Author Archives: BetsyWelch

‘A shopping day’ that is about supporting all a community has to offer

Fourteen years ago, when Anne Klapfish gathered a small group of people together to talk about the possibility of collaborating on an “old fashioned Christmas fair” on Thanksgiving weekend here in St. George, her main goal was to provide local seasonal retailers like herself with an opportunity to end the business year on a high note. In this respect, the idea—which the group called “Yuletide in St. George”—was not that different from the “Black Friday” concept used at shopping malls and in downtown shopping districts.

But as Yuletide became an annual event that grew to include a whole “trail” of venues winding through the town, it became apparent that there was also something different about Yuletide in St. George—and something much, much better than any kickoff to the holiday shopping season that a mall or big-town chamber of commerce had to offer. It was a difference, Klapfish thinks, that had to do with the St. George community’s growing involvement in the weekend.

“Yes, it’s a shopping day,” Klapfish acknowledges, noting that the St. George Business Alliance is now involved as a sponsor, “but it seems to me that over the years it’s become a time when in this community everybody just comes together in a spirit of conviviality and respect. People come for all the right reasons—to be part of a community and to support all aspects of what this community has to offer.”

This can be seen in the list of the event’s venues which today range not only from established, locally owned and operated retail shops like Klapfish’s Stonefish boutique, The Blue Tulip, and Mars Hall Gallery, but also to non-profit fundraising and service organizations like the Ocean View Grange, the Eastern Star, and the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. So in stopping at the locations marked on the Yuletide map, participants can support in equal measure both local commerce and local causes. “People share the wealth from venue to venue to venue,” Klapfish points out.

Klapfish says she also particularly likes that the Madison Avenue-driven hype present at most shopping malls is absent from the St. George Yuletide event. “The things that are promoted most during Yuletide are the things that people here in St. George have made, whether the food they offer or their crafts and art,” she stresses, adding, “and you know you will run into people you know. People are in a good mood, there’s camaraderie. It’s a way to step into a holiday event at a scale and intimacy you don’t find elsewhere.”

Yuletide in St. George runs the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend from 10-4. Some venues are open only a single day and some hours vary, so check the Yuletide map for details.

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

Bless the rains and Shaggy Manes

Nature Bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the ability to grow a shaggy mane on their head, some settle for shaggy chins (and those wear their shagginess with pride!). There are shaggy manes that we all can enjoy though, and of course I am talking about Shaggy Mane mushrooms. But enjoy them while you can, they get along fast!

Shaggy Manes are one of the few mushrooms that can “magically” appear overnight after a rain (most mushrooms take a few days or longer). On October 25th St. George received about two inches of rain, and after a generally dry summer and mostly dry fall the water was welcomed whole heartily. On October 26th (the next day) Shaggy Mane mushrooms erupted in several lawns in St George and the responses I heard were mixed.

“Get them out of here,” “I’m not touching them,” “What are those?”and “I just keep running over them with my lawn mower” kinda sums up the energy of one camp of Shaggy Mane observers. And who can blame them–“Those things weren’t there yesterday, I swear!” Shaggy Manes can erupt and take over a yard seemingly moments after the rain slows down and it’s hard to miss them when they do turn up.

Shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus), also known as “Lawyer’s wigs” in some small fungal circles, have cylindrical, white missile-like caps covered with white/brown scales that give the mushrooms an attractive “shaggy” appearance (as opposed to a “Scooby” appearance which is something totally different). They stand up to one foot and may erupt in impressive numbers—like 100s to 1000s–in yards and wood chip piles. Shaggies will grow for a day or two and then undergo an extreme metamorphosis.

The bottom edge of the cap turns into a black, inky like liquid. Over the next day or so the entire cap liquifies, or deliquesces, from the bottom up only leaving a thin stalk surrounded and/or covered by a black blob of goo. They go from attractive to somewhat disturbing in a matter of days. Sounds appetizing, no?

This deliquescing is the typical spore dispersal strategy for Inky Cap mushrooms (family Coprinaceae, genus Coprinus). Within its cap, Shaggy Mane gills grow close to each other like pages in a book. So close that “regular” gravity-released spore dispersal would result in most spores being stuck between gills. Instead, as the spores along the margin of a Shaggy Mane cap mature, enzymes are released to dissolve the edge of the cap. This autodigestion causes the cap border to spread, crack and peel up. In the process, the gills are separated and spores are released into the air without concern of becoming stuck between gills. Spores be free!

This dispersal method works well for Shaggy Manes as they are found in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In the Americas Shags grow from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, at sea level to over 10,000 ft. Those shaggy spores really disperse!

The local, excited camp of shaggy mane observers came up with “I saw some at the transfer station!” and “There are hundreds of white mushrooms in a yard on 131. You gotta see them!” These are the fungophiles who know that while not only being attractive and repulsive, shaggy manes are downright yummy! Pick them before they deliquesce, then steam ‘em or cook with eggs (“shags and eggs” is a well-loved treat in the Palmer-Gentalen household) and feast!

“So, what are they doing here?” my neighbor John asked me as we looked at the pair of shaggy manes in his yard. “They are decomposing something,” I replied. Apparently, there had been a wood pile not too long ago right where Shags were growing. Birch chips and wood shrapnel were left there and were now being processed by these shags. Shaggy manes fit in with the classic fungus niche of decomposer, the art of turning things back into soil. Attractive, yummy and a decomposer—Shaggy Manes have got it all! How are Shaggy Manes not the state mushroom of Maine?

By October 29th all that was left of the Shaggy Manes I was watching were stalks and goo. A four-day whirlwind lesson on Shaggy Mane populations and dispersal. Just when you think mushroom season is done and gone, Shags state their presence with authority. I appreciate them even more now. See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

A ‘challenge by choice’ experience

By Laura Olds and Sophia Vigue

From October 16th to the 20th, the 8th grade students from St. George School attended a class trip to The Leadership School at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro. The Leadership School is all about “challenge by choice.” The staff there encourage kids to do things they may not do in their everyday lives. They also taught us a lot about being good leaders and peers.

Our days there were very full and we spent our time doing fun things. We did a lot of group challenges and activities for team building. We had a teacher who worked with us during the day throughout the entire week. He guided us through different team exercises, and the meanings behind them. We learned a lot about communication, collaboration, and decision-making.

There was an indoor climbing wall as well as an outdoor ropes course offered. Many students faced their fear of heights, and almost everyone did at least one climb over the week. A lot of people’s favorite part about Camp Kieve was the climbing. (The three meals and snacks we got every day were also a class favorite.) Our St. George teachers took turns being there with us for the days and overnight.

There were other schools there as well. Most classes were middle-level students, but there were a few younger grades. During the afternoon and evening there were choice activities offered to all the students, like climbing, different outdoor sports, fishing, and arts and crafts. We also did an egg drop competition, played a fun game called “Escape The Freedom,” and did a talent show where we performed a skit or dance with the students in our cabin.

“I liked the fun memories that were created,” Audrey Leavitt stated.

Liam O’Neal reminisced, “It was a great place with great food.”

“I liked it because it had a lot of challenges,” observed Sophia Mathieson.

“My favorite part was that the whole class got to hang out together,” Anna Kingsbury added.

Going to Camp Kieve was an amazing experience for our class. It was great, as this is our last year in school together. This was a way we could spend more time with each other and become closer as a whole and realize what it means to be leaders at our school. We would like to thank the staff, board members and community of St. George for providing this opportunity for us.

Olds and Vigue are 8th grade students at St. George School.

PHOTOS: St. George School staff

An annual shopping trip that is about much more than a free ride

During the 11 years that St. George native Cherie Yattaw has worked at the St. George Town Office she has worn a number of different hats—most notably assessing clerk, planning board secretary and now office manager. But the one she enjoys wearing most is the one she will be donning this coming Friday, November 10 when she accompanies those signed up for the annual senior shopping trip on the bus to Portland.

“Sometimes I wear a stocking cap or reindeer ears—one year I wore snowflakes and snowflake glasses,” she admits. “Everyone looks forward to the trip and I look forward to it and the girls in the office look forward to it.”

The bus, which holds 50, is paid for by the town through the Parks and Recreation budget. It picks the shoppers up at the Town Office parking lot at 7am and returns to drop them off at 6pm. Christmas movies are shown both on the way down to Portland and on the way back.
“The first year I was here I didn’t go, but then the Parks and Recreation director at the time, Wayne Judkins, arranged it for the office staff to go along and so I went,” Yattaw recalls. Very  quickly she saw the potential for making the trip into something a bit more festive than just a welcome opportunity for people who have transportation needs to get to Portland for some holiday shopping.

“On that first trip I got thinking, you know, it would be nice to give everybody a little gift—just some little thing because you don’t know what everyone’s situation is and sometimes it’s just fun to have a secret Santa, too. So the following year, it was in September that I started and I wrote letters and then I made phone calls to places like Hannaford and Shaws and Walmart.  And all the banks got letters and calls, too. And they all were so giving. They gave recycle bags, pens, paper, calendars, pencils—I got a wide variety of things. And then I made something for each of the shoppers, like one year I made them potholders, another year I made them scarves and last year I made them all teddy bears.”

A few days before the trip Yattaw brings everything she has gathered and then the office staff gets together and fills up gift bags, which will be handed out at the end of the trip. “Even the bus driver gets a bag,” Yattaw says. “And I also make special holiday pins—sometimes with beads, sometimes with things like snowmen. A couple of the ladies who go on the trip wear all the pins they’ve received each year right across their chests. And the last couple of years we’ve handed out necklaces made of flashing holiday lights, which were a big hit.”

The itinerary begins with a stop for coffee or breakfast at the McDonald’s in Brunswick. “It’s Veterans’ Day, so we see lots of Veterans there,” Yattaw notes. “We give them the holiday pins I’ve made for the trip and talk to them and hug them and thank them for their service.” After a pause she adds, “I love our country, I love our town—it just makes you feel so proud to see the veterans  and to know they are proud of what they’ve done for us.”

Next the bus heads for the Christmas Tree Shop. “That’s the highlight! We’re there for about an hour-and-a-half to two hours—it takes quite a while to get through there with 50 people. Then we go to the Maine Mall for lunch where a place called the Country Buffet is very popular with our group.”

Marden’s is the next stop after the Maine Mall. “A lot of the ladies really like that because they can get some good buys there for quilting needs—a lot of them belong to the Grange, so this is a chance for them to get out and get materials so they can make things for the craft shows.”
Target is usually the final shopping stop of the day. “The bus is full when we get back to St. George, both in the baggage compartments below and in the main cabin.”

Yattaw, who unabashedly admits that she is “a hugger,” acknowledges that this annual senior shopping trip is something she especially loves doing. “I love making things and I just like to see people smile and be happy. Going down to Portland it is very chatty on the bus. This is a chance for people to reconnect with one another, a chance for fellowship. And it’s nice not to have to worry about anything for the day. It’s just a time to be together.”

There is still time for seniors to sign up for this year’s shopping trip to Portland. Contact the Town Office at 372-6363.—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

St. George’s Civil War monument

The monument at Wiley’s Corner

As you travel throughout Maine you’ll go through villages, towns and cities that proudly and prominently display their memorial to the residents of their town that served in the Civil War.  There are about 150 of these monuments throughout the state and within Knox County you will find them in Appleton, Camden, Rockland, Thomaston, Vinalhaven and Warren. Maine provided quite a few soldiers for the Union Army.  At Gettysburg alone there were about 70,000 Maine soldiers.

So now the question—where is the Civil War monument in St. George?  The answer is that there isn’t one!  And the background behind it is very interesting.

First you must know that the town of St. George was very active in shipping during the mid-1800s, providing a lot of ships and sailors.  And where were a lot of the destination ports?  In the south!  Therefore, a war with the South would have a devastating impact on the economy of the town.  You can only imagine the heated discussions during this period on the topic of a war between the North and South.  The local newspapers at this time (available at the Rockland Public Library on microfilm) provide interesting opinions on the subject.  The St. George Historical Society is also in possession of some letters from the 1860s that shed light on the controversy.

Don’t get the wrong idea­—St. George did provide its quota of soldiers for the war.  The St. George Town Office vault holds a book on the activity of the era that provided volunteers, draftees and substitutes.  The men provided from St. George totaled about 150.

But that doesn’t mean that the controversy didn’t exist.  Oral history provides stories of heated disputes between neighbors, young men leaving town and volunteering for service in Rockland, and even a dispute with the town line in Spruce Head village.  State records show that in the 1860s a bill was presented and passed that changed the town line between St. George and South Thomaston (created as a separate town in 1848).  Research did not provide proof as to the reason for the change, but oral history strongly refers to the controversy over the Civil War as the reason.

As a side note—there is a monument at Wiley’s Corner that was erected to the memory of the men of the Gilchrest family who served in the wars dating back to the Revolutionary War, including the Civil War. The monument sits on a small green as you round the corner.
—John Falla  

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Time to send dahlias to their winter homes

I didn’t expect to fall in love with dahlias. After all, I like easy, no-muss perennial flowers. And textural shrubs. And native plants. Not a tuber from Mexico. But I have become a fan of dahlias, in all their multivalent colorful variety. They are the later season sugary stars of the garden, with many well-suited for cut-flower arrangements. The range is phenomenal: white, yellow, orange, red, purple, variegated; cactus-flowered, single, dinner plate, peony-flowered, double, ball, pom-pom, water-lily and fimbriated; tall, short, dark-leaved, bright-leaved.

All told, growing dahlias is fairly easy. They don’t tend to attract many pests and are rather disease-free, though Japanese beetles like them sometimes and slugs and snails can put in an appearance on occasion. I plant my dahlia tubers in the spring, after all danger of frost, when the ground is warming up. When I am efficient, in the early spring I start them in pots in the greenhouse to get a head-start on the growing season. And then they are on their own, with regular watering in dry spells and maybe a bit of extra compost or fertilizer when they start blooming. July through October I can plan on colorful dahlias.

Growing dahlias is easy, but tending to the tubers in our climate is where one must pay for a dahlia fixation. The tubers will not overwinter here if they are left in the ground. So out of the ground and into winter storage they must go. Just when I am less than enthusiastic about tending to plants—and rather singleminded of purpose to put all the various gardens to bed for the winter—here are dahlias asking for attention.

Here’s my lazy way of dealing with dahlia tubers. It still takes some time, but I’ve learned to minimize the time involved because in the fall I am busy with so many other tasks. Because I want to remember which color is which, I do use a Sharpie marker to write a description on a strip of flagging tape that I wrap around the base of the stem of each plant. I dig out each plant carefully using a fork to loosen the soil around the base. I dry the clumps of tubers, with the stems cut off to about two inches, for a few days in the sun.

It is rather magical how the single tuber that went into the ground in late May becomes a cluster of five, six, ten, twenty sweet-potato-shaped tubers. Each one of those tubers, when properly cut off from the stem, can become a grand plant the next season. But lately I have not been inclined to take on this task until a day deep in winter when I begin to dream of dahlia explosions again. So once my clumps of tubers are dry, I put them in a fish tray and loosely pack them in pine shavings (something I have on hand for the chicken coop, though peat moss works well for this task also), so they are completely covered. I try to keep the clumps from touching so that if there is any rot on one it will not affect the others. Then I shove the tray under the benches in my greenhouse to wait out the winter. I keep the greenhouse cool, but above freezing. A garage or cellar would work as well. They just need to be kept above freezing.

Cutting the individual tubers apart is a task for another day, a winter’s day.
—Anne Cox

PHOTOS: Anne Cox

Don Reimer and the Corvids

Crows, ravens, Fish Crows, Blue Jays and Canada Jays are local members of the 120 -member family of corvids that are found worldwide. They have a brain-to-body mass ratio equal to the great apes and the cetacean family of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.  Corvids are clever enough to belie the term “bird brain.” Learn more when birder extraordinaire and columnist Don Reimer brings his presentation on Corvids to the Tenants Harbor Town Office on Thursday, November 9 at 7 pm.
PHOTO: Don Reimer


To the editor:
Regarding the October 12th issue of St. George Dragon titled “A seasonal miracle”: As many St. George residents know, the Marshall Point Lighthouse and Museum are an attraction for thousands of visitors from all over the country and world. What may be less known is that in the early fall the lighthouse and museum area is also a gathering point for Monarch butterflies before they head south. They come from local areas including the islands to prepare for their long journey. It is quite a sight!
—Dave Percival, Tenants Harbor
To the editor:
St. George Troop 1831 is hosting a “Hunters’ Breakfast” at the Town Office on October 28 from 5 am to 6:30 am. Donations are gladly accepted. The girls are beginning to save for another big trip. If you should have any questions, please feel free to give me a call at the town office (372-6363). Thanks again for your help.
—Patty St. Clair, Troop 1831, St. George