Training hard to overcome the problem of water supply

The timed pumping test performed at the Transfer Station on Oct. 12

The timed pumping test performed at the Transfer Station on Oct. 12

For the past several months St. George’s firefighters have been intensively training for an Olympic-like competition. Can they provide enough water from the town’s various ponds to be able to respond within 15 minutes of a call with a flow of at least 250 gallons a minute and sustain that flow for at least two hours? If they can, they qualify for bronze. If test results from a drill held October 12 show that they exceed those minimums, they might even win silver or gold.

The aim, according to Fire Chief Tim Polky, is to improve the department’s ability to fight fires effectively. And if the firefighters can demonstrate that they qualify for a medal, everyone in St. George could see a decrease in the cost of their homeowner’s insurance.

“We’ve been working on this for several years,” Polky notes, sounding a bit like a coach for a little-known, disadvantaged team that has been training hard to earn a spot on the  awards podium against steep odds.

There will be, of course, no actual medals involved. The measure of the firefighters’ success will be the rating the department receives from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), a company which supplies the insurance industry with information about property/casualty insurance risk. But the analogy with an underdog team training for a medal isn’t all that far afield.

“It is very difficult for fire departments in rural communities to meet the higher end of the ISO standards,” Polky explains. “Our biggest problem is water supply. We don’t have the water delivery infrastructure cities have—like water mains and pressurized fire hydrants. The ISO has a 10-point scale, with 10 being the lowest score—basically that would be a place with no firefighting capability at all. Our current rating is nine.”

There are several steps involved in changing the ISO rating. For one thing, says Polky, the ponds the department uses to supply water to its tankers need to be certified that they will have enough water whatever the conditions—whether there’s been a drought, for example, or whether they are covered with ice. And they must have a permament dry hydrant located near an all-weather road so tanker crews can access the water quickly any time of year.

“We hired an engineer to test our ponds,” Polky says. “To be certified, they have to reliably contain at least 30,000 gallons of water. So far 10 sources have passed.”

Another element needed to change the ISO rating is access to enough firefighting personnel. “One factor the ISO measures is how many firefighters show up at calls over a period of years—and how fast do they show up,” Polky explains, adding, “We’ve realized we can’t do it by ourselves anymore. While we have had a good mutual aid system in Knox County, which has allowed us to get additional help from other towns when we ask for it, what the ISO wants to see is that we have an automatic alarm system.”

The automatic system, Polky says, would guarantee that every participating town would be alerted immediately when a call comes in. “The automatic alarm system means more calls,” Polky notes, “but that can also provide more interest for volunteer and call firefighters [who get paid per call they answer]. My view is more calls, more interest, a better fire department. People don’t want to come to the station and watch the trucks rust.”

Training together is crucial, which is why the October 12 drill involved firefighters from So. Thomaston, Thomaston, Owls Head, Warren and Cushing—about 30 to 40 people in all. And training within the St. George fire department is also an ISO must. The requirement is for a minimum of 20 hours for each firefighter annually.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut time commitment to training—which is the same for volunteer and call firefighters as it is for career firefighters—may be one reason St. George is currently low on new firefighter recruits. “We especially need younger people because most of the people we have who are trained for interior work are getting older. But we have to compete with the recreational opportunities people have,” Polky says. After a reflective pause he adds, “When I was young we didn’t have a lot of money for recreation so belonging to the fire department was part of our entertainment.”

Asked what his best recruitment pitch might be, Polky’s response is immediate. “Most of us in the department stay with it because we don’t know when it will be our house that is burning. Helping your neighbors is the big pitch. It is very satisfying.”

Satisfying, too, will be the improvement in the fire department’s ISO rating once it has met or exceeded the ISO standards for a rating better than a nine. “We are shooting for a six or five rating,” Polky says, sounding determined. “We will do it. This has been one of my goals for the past 10 years.”—JW 

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A new, spacious studio full of light—and memories

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoebe Bly remembers, as a student in junior high school, walking across the road from the St. George School to attend classes in social studies, home economics and shop at the old Grace Institute buildings located by Ripley Creek. That was in the early 1980s. So this past summer, nearly 30 years later, it was a bit of an unreal trip down memory lane for her when she and her husband, Ty Babb, became the new owners of the single-story white frame building that once contained the institute’s workshop and a classroom. Babb’s father will be renovating for rental apartments the two-story duplex next door that housed the home economics classes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“It was Ty’s idea to buy the building and turn it into an art studio and gallery,” Bly says, “I  really didn’t have much to do with it.” The couple has given the old shop space a modest makeover, cleaning, painting the walls, covering the floor outlets that powered the shop machines and refinishing the tops of the work benches that line two walls.

Spending time in this new studio is a big change for Bly, who up until now has contented herself with a much smaller space on the Babb-Bly property on Ridge Road. “This space is much bigger and full of light,” Bly says, gesturing to the high ceiling and the bank of windows looking out onto a scenic view of Ripley Creek and the harbor beyond. “So it might lead me to work larger. But I also just like being in town—this is very different from my studio in the woods. I like to hear the kids playing at recess and to see people walking by.”

Bly first took up oil painting 14 years ago, while she and Babb were living with son Marley on Islesboro, a sojourn that lasted about five years. “I had been doing photography, but I gave that up when we moved to the island because we didn’t have a way to make a darkroom. I knew I needed something to do.”

She had moved to Portland after high school and taken classes in photography, design and color theory, but had no experience with oils. “So I learned no method at all,” she laughs. “And I still have no method—every painting is different.”

In truth, Bly says, she isn’t that interested in art—at least, not in looking at it for ideas or inspiration. “I just walk around outside and look at the world around me. My work is very visceral. I’m not in my head. I like painting because it has nothing to do with words. I just want to pay homage to the world’s endless beauty.”

Bly is frequently drawn to night and twilight scenes, often with snow on the ground. “Winter is especially amazing visually,” she notes. Recently she has also been experimenting with cardboard cutouts of chickens and other birds, with plans for testing how painting these creatures on plywood might work.

Surprisingly, while being focused on what she sees outside, she doesn’t enjoy painting en plein air. “I might do a sketch on the spot, but for the colors I just stare as hard as I can to try to burn what I see into my mind. Usually what strikes you about a scene is simple. When I paint I try to be as true as I can to the original feeling I had when I saw it.  I want to do it justice.”

In early October Bly hosted an open house in her new studio which drew a lively crowd of friends, family and neighbors. The walls were hung with her recent work, which gave the space a gallery atmosphere. She does plan on having a gallery in the building, but next door, in the class room where she studied social studies years ago. Renovating this space is the next Babb-Bly project, with a goal of having the space ready for next summer when she plans monthly shows of work by other artists. Her studio space will remain just that—her painting studio.

“I find it very inspiring to be here,” Bly says as she gazes around her. “I love the feeling of it, the energy of all the kids for so many years working here on their projects.” —JW

Guests at the open house admire Bly's work

Guests at the open house admire Bly’s work

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The ferry in Tenants Harbor

R2012.TH Ferry copySMThis undated photograph is from the David Lowell Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit today!

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Please help us turn on the heat

Again this year, the Ocean View Grange is raising funds to provide heating assistance for St. George residents who have difficulty paying winter heating bills. Given the continuing poor economic conditions and the price of fuel, we anticipate the need for help will be greater than in the past. The people of St George have always been especially generous in helping our friends and neighbors and we hope you can continue to meet the need. Last heating season the people of St George helped 40 families with nearly $11,000 for heating fuel assistance.
If you can help with a donation, please send a check to the Ocean View Grange, c/o Larry Bailey, PO Box 204, Port Clyde, Maine 04855.
— Larry Bailey

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It’s time to think about planting garlic

garlic photoSMEven though I bought my seed garlic at the Common Ground Fair in September, I plan to plant my garlic next week or perhaps even the first week of November. I always hope I have grown enough garlic each season to be able to plant my own as seed, but this year I barely have enough for our culinary needs through winter.

I have been planting hardneck garlic, particularly Georgian Fire. The hardneck types are the most hardy, which is good for our winters. One year I did grow a softneck type because I was coveting braids of garlic. They actually did fine, but that was also a mild winter.

The wisdom on planting garlic is to give the bulbs about a month to send out some roots before the ground freezes solid.The year I was overly early in planting the garlic we also had a very mild November, and some of the cloves sent up green shoots that of course died back over the course of the winter. Not the best crop that year.

So here’s the planting process that seems to work best for me:

• Add rich compost to the raised bed dedicated to garlic;
• break the bulb into the cloves;
• dig the first trench in the bed, about six inches deep;
• place the cloves (pointy end up) in the trench, about 6” apart;
• fill in the first trench, and dig the next one about a foot away, for the next line of garlic (I do three trenches in all in my four-foot-wide raised beds.);
• mulch with about six inches of hay.

That’s it until the spring when those first little shoots emerge. When that happens, I usually move the hay out of the way to give those shoots as much sun as I can.

This year I think I will augment this process a bit as I have been reading “Roberta Bailey’s Turbo-Charged Blue-Ribbon Garlic Growing Tips” on the FEDCO website ( Bailey suggests placing the cloves 10 inches apart to give more space for roots and adding a nitrogen source in the fall. She suggests alfalfa meal or fish meal in combination with soybean meal. She also adds Azomite, which supplies trace minerals the garlic needs. I have neither of these on hand just now, but I am thinking I will add some of the seaweed-based organic fertilizer I do have, just to see if I can give these cloves a boost and get even larger heads of garlic next year. (Though this year’s crop was quite respectable.) And I suppose if I get up the gumption I will go down to the shore and haul up some seaweed to put on the bed under the hay. That would give quite a nutrient boost.
—Anne Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

garlic bedSM

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‘Discovery Tour’ showcases breadth of handcrafted artistry in St. George

David Talley table

David Talley table

When Amy Barstow of Monhegan Boat Line volunteered to chair the Columbus Day Weekend Event committee for the St. George Business Alliance, her thought was to organize a “discovery tour” that would tie into Maine Craft Weekend by showcasing the breadth of St. George’s creative life. “There are so many talented people here in St. George,” she says, “I thought something like an artists’ open studio tour could be fun.”

Barstow’s committee, consisting of Betsy Welch, Peggy Crockett, Darlene Cocke and Julie Wortman, worked with Barstow’s idea for several months, eventually settling on a 16-venue self-guided “Discovery Tour” called “Handcrafted in St. George” that embraces an intriguing cross-section of the remarkable handcrafted work being produced on this peninsula. Judy Brogden, Rockland Market Manager of Machias Savings Bank, got wind of the idea and pledged the bank’s financial support. “Machias Savings Bank has a rich history as a Maine-based community bank in providing support for exceptional events like the ‘Handcrafted in St. George’ tour,’” Brogden explains. “We believe this event will connect artists, craftspeople and businesses with customers who are eager to learn about and patronize the high-quality work represented.”

It may sound cliché, but there really is something for everybody to enjoy and learn at the “Handcrafted in St. George: A Discovery Tour” event on Saturday, October 11. Consider this spectrum of tour venues:

Fire Gold, the studio of Peter Achorn (627 Wallston Road)
Achorn has a national reputation for his shaded gold decoration restoration painting on antique American fire engines and other apparatus. His knowledge spans Colonial times to the present.

Ridge Forge, the workshop of Noah Bly (249 Ridge Road, Turkey Cove)
Bly completed his stone-and-wood forge building in 2012 and has been producing custom railings, andirons, latches firescreens and other unique metalwork there ever since. He especially likes making blades of all kinds.

Craignair Inn, hosting Maurice Klapfish, Angie Hritz and Dave Talley (the end of Clark Island Road)
Frequenting the transfer station in search of parts he could use in his lamp repair business led Klapfish to begin creating an imaginative, often humorous, array of “lamp art” out of junk. Also quirkily imaginative, Hritz’s handcrafted creations take their inspiration from materials gathered from the natural world. In contrast, Talley’s dramatic and sleek furniture designs are, as he says, essentially “functional sculpture.” Some of his furniture will also be on display at True Hall Realty/Real Finds Consignment in Tenants Harbor.

Marshall Point Lighthouse, hosting John Shea
Shea took up basketmaking in retirement, inspired by the exacting craft of the baskets created by the crews who manned the Nantucket Lightships. He loves “the romance,” he says, of those men making baskets during long months at sea.

True Hall Real Estate/Real Finds Consignment Shop, hosting Dave Talley and Gayle Bedigian (13 Mechanic St., Tenants Harbor)
Some of Talley’s sculptural furniture will be on display along with Bedigian’s custom ceramic art which, she says, is “about memories.” Her unique watercolor-like dinnerware pieces are inspired by the image or sentiment a client wants to celebrate. She will be taking orders during the tour.

Kevin Solsten workshop (15 Juniper St., Tenants Harbor)
Solsten is a master cabinetmaker whose latest passion is fine hand-planed finishes. Visitors to his workshop will get the chance to try hand planing for themselves.

Mars Hall Gallery, wide range of media (621 Port Clyde Road)
There is a generous and appealing range of work in all media at the Mars Hall Gallery, but tour participants will be especially intrigued by the work of outsider artist Elaine Niemi, who makes captivating assemblages out of wood, old tires, paint brushes and whatever else she can find. Her paintings, too, are full of the unexpected. Soaps and honey products by Stone House Road Apiary (located across the road from the gallery) will also be on hand.

Marvon Hupper workshop and gallery (376 Glenmere Road)
Hupper is a woodworker who has recently begun making wood coffins suitable for green funerals. His gallery is also full of his own paintings.

Jen Derbyshire studio (85 Main St., Tenants Harbor)
Artist Jen Derbyshire, a former potter turned painter, is now focusing on the art of painting silk scarves. Plaids, stripes and botanical themes abound. She will be providing a demonstration of her painting techniques from 2-4pm.

STONEFISH, Anne Klapfish (38 Main St., Tenants Harbor)
In addition to masterminding a store that is itself an intriguing collage of vintage, modern  and unusual goods and clothing, Klapfish herself is a creator of little, quirky works of art using paper, shells and thread.

Jim Parker workshop (829 River Road)
Parker has been repairing and building wood boats since 1978. He participated in the renovation of Monhegan Boat Line’s Laura B in 2012 and 2013 and has a reputation for restoring hopeless-seeming old boats to seaworthy beauty.

Blue Tulip, Rosemary Limmen (Barter Hill Road)
Limmen’s shop has a strong focus on goods handcrafted in Maine, with several vendors from the St. George area, including Anne Solley (knitted hats), Sylvia Murdock (baskets), Karen Stickney (woven dish towels) and Pat Towle (painted containers). Limmen herself makes knitted and quilted items—from baby hats and bath mitts to table runners, coasters, wine bags and napkins.

First Light Gallery, Lucinda Talbot paintings and mixed media (1174 River Road)
Talbot’s gallery displays paintings in pastel, egg tempera, acrylic inks and collage. She also produces cards, prints, glass cutting boards, tiles, decorative boxes, collage kits and a collection of hearts.

Sea Star Shop, hosting Randy Elwell and Jeremy Davis (at Monhegan Boat Line, Port Clyde)
Wildlife is often the theme of Elwell’s captivating metal sculptures. Davis makes well-crafted custom cutting boards, some with feet that make it possible to also use the board as a serving tray.

Hedgerow, Anne Cox hooked rugs and rustic furniture (8 Ridge Road, Martinsville)
Cox is an award-winning rug hooker whose original designs are inspired by the natural world around her. Her distinctive rustic furniture often has an unconventional, somewhat whimsical flavor.

Pond House Gallery, Darlene Cocke (41 Port Clyde Road, Tenants Harbor)
Cocke’s work includes charming watercolors and mixed media works featuring Maine lighthouses, shorebirds and songbirds.

St. George’s chefs are also showcasing their culinary skills as part of the “Handcrafted in St. George” event. Chef Chris Chadwick of the Black Harpoon in Port Clyde will be offering his famous dish of hand raked mussels sauteed with shallots, herbs, garlic, white wine, Dijon and a touch of cream with some bread for dipping (bar opens at 4:30pm). The East Wind Inn’s Chef Colin Hatfield is concocting a special fresh dark chocolate mousse on a crisp double chocolate biscotti finished with an orange-infused sugar dusting (dining room 5-8pm). The Craignair Inn will be serving smoked haddock chowder with homemade ciabatta bread from 11-2pm.  Chef Jessica Beal of The Point in Tenants Harbor is preparing a lunch special of lobster tacos and a dinner special of salmon en croute (11-4pm, 4-9pm). The Port Clyde General Store will be offering samples of rotisseries chicken, the Tenants Harbor General Store will have samples of Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Maple Syrup, the Dip Net will offer samples of fish chowder and a special end-of-season menu (12-9pm) and The Barn at the Seaside Inn will offer samples of blueberry barbecue wings (4-8pm). Village Ice Cream in Port Clyde will be open 12-8pm and the Happy Clam in Tenants Harbor will be open for lunch and dinner.—JW

Download a pdf of the map.

Marshall Point1

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Hoping to protect a wild colony from collapse

The wild hive in the treeSMOne day in late September a neighbor dropped by the home of Glad Farm Road resident Alexandra Merrill to report that there was a large hive of bees in a tree that bordered a large field on Merrill’s property.

“I keep a path mown in that field for walking,” she explains. “My neighbors walk their dogs there, I use it, my brother’s family uses it.” She was pleased to see the hive, but concerned.
“I wanted to know what was the right thing to do to protect the hive—I’ve been very aware of colony collapse disorder.” So she asked a friend who has kept bees, Hugo Heriz-Smith, to come take a look. He brought another bee-keeper friend with him.

The two men studied the situation. With winter coming on, they wanted to provide the wild hive with protection by relocating it into an enclosed box hive.  “They pointed out that the bees had chosen a south-facing location next to a field free of pesticides with a stream running down the far side,” Merrill says. “So they advised that the best thing to do was to honor their choice of location and simply bring the wild hive down from the tree into a box placed beneath it on the ground.”

Bee rescue 5 peopleSMThe operation involved five people (the two beekeepers plus three members of Merrill’s extended family) working for two hours to create a pulley system to hold the weight of the branch, saw the branch and settle the hive onto the new box. One comb dropped off in the process, but the rest were saved. The fallen comb proved to be full of brood, from which the beekeepers detected that one new baby bee had emerged.

“The bees actually settled down quite quickly in the box,” says Merrill, adding, “It was as if they were willing to accept the idea of a winter residence up in the field under their summer cottage.”

Since bringing the hive down, Merrill’s bee-keeper friends have determined that, instead of breaking the combs off the branch, it would be better to keep them attached to it. So they are now awaiting delivery of a box large enough to accommodate both branch and combs. The new box will also contain additional honeycomb to aid the bees’ winter survival.

Whether these efforts will have a successful conclusion, of course, remains to be seen. But Merrill and her beekeeper friends are committed to trying.

“I’m just very aware that bees and humans are interdependent,” Merrill reflects. “And I’d like to help.” —JW


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Blacksmith shop

Blacksmith copySMThis photograph is from the David Lowell Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit today!

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Pruning at the right time

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis beautiful fall weather is making me itch to get out there and prune the shrubs I’ve been ignoring. In some places, I have some radical rejuvenation work to do. But by and large, this is a bad idea. I need to focus my outside cleaning and tidying tasks on the herbaceous plants, cutting back the perennial beds, cleaning out the vegetable gardens, putting everything to bed.

Here’s how I understand the problem with  pruning woody plants (shrubs, vines, trees) right now. The weather is still mild enough for the plants to send out new growth, which is the response to pruning. So the plant is using up some of its energy that it should be storing through the winter for next spring, potentially stunting some of its spring growth. Additionally, the tender new shoots will not have a time to harden off before winter’s freezing temperatures, and they will probably die, weakening the plant.

The best time to prune many plants is in late winter or early spring (I tend toward early spring as late winter is sometimes still too cold for me to want to be tramping through ancient snow and ice.) The deal is that the plants are so dormant at this time they don’t know that you are cutting them. Then when they do begin to wake up, when the sap starts flowing in the spring, they are able to heal the wounds from the cuts easily. So I plan on doing the great pruning extravaganza sometime in March or April.

But there are some plants that shouldn’t be pruned at that time, as they tend to have a lot of sap flowing already, so much that they “bleed.” These would be maples, birches, grapes, hardy kiwis. These should definitely be tackled in the dead of winter, or much later in the spring.
That’s the advice I have learned and the advice I have generally followed.

There are exceptions, of course. The first is that any time I see dead and diseased wood, I try to cut that out. And I have begun to tackle pruning established rugosa rose hedges in the fall. I have not had any problems doing this (as long as they are established hedges) so fall tends to be when I have the time to take on this prickly task.

And that’s the trick. Sometimes the best time to prune is when you have the time.
—Anne Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

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