Reviving the tradition—and pleasures—of keeping a family cow

Daisy gave birth to Clover on December 29.

Daisy gave birth to Clover on December 29.

A little more than eight years ago, when Joan Small and Hale Miller installed Rose in their Tenants Harbor barn, the Jersey cow attracted considerable attention from towns people who hadn’t seen a cow in St. George for many years.

“The last cow in town was Jimmy Skoglund’s and that was 20 years ago,” says Miller, who is a lobsterman. “I had been wanting a cow for a while but the logistics of it were difficult—trying to fish and take care of a cow really wouldn’t work. Without Joan it wouldn’t have been possible to have it.”

Small refers to Rose as a “family cow,” noting that many people in the midcoast area kept family cows on small lots often not much more than an acre in size right through the 1950s. “We had a couple of cows when I was a kid growing up in Cushing, and my grandparents had a couple of cows, so I was exposed to them, but I never milked. Then Hale had an interest in a cow and there was an opportunity to get Rose, who was the perfect cow—she had had one calf and had been bred back [meaning she had been bred again] and she had been trained to milk.” Small smiles in memory and adds, “She was an angel.”

Her first year with Small and Miller the three-year-old Rose gave birth to Dash, a male calf. Her next two calves were also male, but luckily found homes on a farm in Jefferson where they became breeding bulls. “The problem with male calves,” says Small, “is that around the age of 15 months they can become a problem, so unless they can be used for breeding they are usually slaughtered.” So it was a real joy and relief when Rose finally gave birth to Daisy in late August, 2013.

Knowing that there wouldn’t be enough pasture for two bovines at their in-town property, Miller went to Skoglund to see if he’d be willing to let Rose and her calf spend the summer months in his pasture on Route 131 near Wiley’s Corner.

“Jimmy said ‘What better use for this land?’” Small recalls. “So in 2014 we put up fencing and brought Rose and Daisy to their new summer home.” A spring supplied the needed water and a wooded area provided shade and a measure of shelter. This past year Small and Miller also erected a temporary shelter to see if the two animals would use it, which they did—and Small was glad to have the cover if she had to milk in the rain. The next step will be to put a lean-to structure on skids so it can be repositioned as needed. Small says that in addition to bushhogging she’d like to lime and seed the land to encourage more cow-friendly growth. “But even just having the cows on it and fertilizing it naturally, the land has improved,” she notes.

Daisy shows off Clover to Rose

Daisy shows off Clover to Rose

Daisy gave birth to her own calf—Clover—this past December 29 during a snowstorm. Training Daisy to milk, Small acknowledges, presented a challenge she didn’t have to face with Rose. “Rose was such an easy milker, although at the beginning she wasn’t thrilled to have me doing the milking, especially because I didn’t really know how to do it. Before she arrived I had had a few lessons, but when she came to me she had to be very patient because it took me forever to get the milk out.” Thinking about that period, Small offers a wry chuckle. “We spent a lot of time together early on!”

Small says she finally became pretty proficient at milking. “You sort of have to get a feel for it, like riding a bike. And after a while I sort of knew how much milk was in there, and I had a scale so I could weigh it. At the beginning I wasn’t always getting it all out and that can be a bad thing. But I’ve always kept calves, so that’s always helped on that end. But now with Daisy, this has been a new experience, because no one had ever milked her and she didn’t like it very much. At first she didn’t even want Clover to suckle, but instinct prevailed. Now she seems to enjoy it. She gets this blissful look. And she is learning that when I milk her it further relieves the pressure.”

Eventually, Small believes, Daisy will be producing three to four gallons of milk each day, with Clover taking about a gallon for herself. “I’m most happy if Daisy has nursed before I milk so I know I’m not taking anything away from the calf.”

Keeping family cows, Small acknowledges, can be a time-consuming occupation. And getting away overnight is pretty much out of the question unless the cows are in a dry spell. “It is hard to find someone who can spell me on the milking—someone who knows how to milk—unless they are in their eighties.”

Each day Small is is in the barn by about 5am, milking the cows, cleaning up after them, giving them fresh feed and also tending to a flock of chickens. “The traditional thinking is that you allow 12 hours between milkings, but I really think it’s better to milk three times a day unless there’s a calf. If I can, I like to check on the cows at midday to give them more hay and water. Jimmy does that for me when the cows are in his pasture during the summer and I have to work.”

Small works as a gardener during spring, summer and autumn months and also keeps a vegetable garden. Around the edges she spends time using the raw milk to make soft cheeses, cream and, if possible, butter. She also helps process the meat from pigs raised organically by friends in Owls Head.

But she has no regrets about the work involved. “I like the rhythm of this life. And when you’ve got your own milk, your own eggs, your own cheeses, your own vegetables, berries and apples—along with access to local meat and fresh fish—there’s not a lot that you need from the grocery store,” she says with satisfaction.

Joan Small

Joan Small

Small has decided that she will no longer breed Rose because the cow has consistently had birthing difficulties. Not so with Daisy, whose calf was born without incident. And she shouldn’t need to be rebred for several years since she’ll have plenty of milk for the family, which includes Miller’s high school-aged son Eli, for that long. Clover will stay with her mother for the near term, but Small and Miller will be looking for a good home for her with someone who also wants a family, not a commercial, cow. As for Rose, Small says, “I plan to just keep her for a friend.”­­—JW

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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St. George Business Alliance welcomes new board members

IMG_0231 SMJake Miller of The First and Naomi Gettle of Seaside Inn and Ocean House joined the board of directors of the St. George Business Alliance at their first meeting of the year on Tuesday, January 12. Sandra Hall also joined the board. The St. George Business Alliance is a collective of business owners, non-profits, professionals, artists, community organizations and residents working together to promote the businesses and cultural prosperity of St. George, Maine. For more information, visit their website at stgeorgebusinessalliance.com.

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

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What St. George School second graders are learning about lobsters (with some help from GREF)

marvin4managua C

Shannon Thompson, who is traveling in Nicaragua with the second graders’ lobster, Marvin, reports that while there “Marvin ate gallo pinto y tajadas con queso.”

by Josie Mathiau and Chloe Simmons

Mrs. Leatrice Falla’s second grade class is working on a unit about lobstering. They got some help from the Georges River Education Foundation (GREF), which pays for field trips, tools for learning, and other “extras” that teachers write grants for. The second graders have learned the anatomy of a lobster, the life cycle, and the process of catching lobsters. The GREF grant helped them buy a Go-Pro underwater camera to put in a trap owned by fisherman Josh Miller. Now they can see lobsters enter and escape the trap and observe how they move through the trap. In the spring, the students will learn about the tools that are used to catch lobsters.

The second graders worked down at Herring Gut for six weeks, studying lobster anatomy. They dissected whole cooked lobsters. They found some unusual things in the lobsters’ stomachs. They found a rubber band in one of them!

Their study goes on in French class too. In French, they have learned the names of all the body parts and are exploring the lobstering industry around the world. They learn how the traps and tools are different around the world, and how the lobster itself looks different in some places.

There is some math, too. Seven different lobstermen in the area have dedicated one trap each to the second grade.  Each week, they let the kids know what they catch in that trap. The kids figure out in accounting books how much those lobsters are worth and then subtract money for bait and boat expenses.

Then there is a global piece. The class has a little rubber lobster named Marvin who is traveling around the world. He gets sent to different destinations with friends who are traveling to different places. Everywhere he goes, he gets his passport stamped, and his human traveling companions send home pictures to the class.  First, he went to Canada. Now he is in Managua, Nicaragua with Shannon Thompson. He seems to be enjoying himself.  He will also be going to the Bahamas, Antarctica, and Guatemala. The class now has a cousin for Marvin (she has not been named yet) who will also travel. She has plans to go to Morocco, Rome, Mexico, London, Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam. We are all very anxious to find out where they will go next, and we hope you are too. Stay tuned!

GREF funds many projects each year in the area. At the St. George School this year, in addition to the one on lobstering, there are seven other projects at different grade levels that have some funding assistance from GREF. They are: Archiving and Digitizing Local Oral Histories (Schmanska and McPhail, grades 6-8); St. George School Gardens (Thompson, grade 1); Cycle of Life on Land and Sea (Albright, K); Build It: Legos Bring Our Learning to Life (Miller, grades 3-5); Fitness, Food and Fun (Worthing, grade 5); Books for All of Us (MacCaffray, grades 3-5); Aquarium (Palmer, grades 3-5). We will write more about these projects later! We are grateful for the generosity of this foundation.

Writers Josie Mathiau and Chloe Simmons are 8th grade students at the St. George School.

Writers Josie Mathiau and Chloe Simmons are 8th grade students at the St. George School.

PHOTOS: Top, Shannon Thompson,  bottom, Sonja Schmanska

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February 4 conversation to explore ‘Back-to-the-land Movement’

In the 1970s, St. George as well as many other communities in Maine attracted a number of people from urban and suburban parts of the northeast seeking a different, more sustainable and socially just lifestyle—and a special place to call home. Maine communities like St. George offered a deep heritage of the kind of self-sufficient living these mostly young people from away sought. And the larger national political and social phenomenon of that period known as the Back-to-the-land Movement injected the hope that sustainable, rural living could have a positive influence on national values after the social turmoil and conflicts of the 1960s.

Local back-to-the-landers like Sherm Hoyt will be on hand to talk about their experiences at the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor on Thursday, February 4 at 7pm. The evening is hosted by the St. George Conservation Commission, the Friends of St. George and the Jackson Memorial Library. The purpose of the gathering, in part, is to explore possible connections between the back-to-the-landers of the 1970s and current interest in self-sufficiency, sustainable farming and rural lifestyle.

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St. George VANITZ

BANDJO SMWho conducts the Midcoast Community Band and plays many instruments, including the piano, organ and french horn, but not the banjo? —Susan Bates

Who’s behind the wheel? Email your answer!  The first reader to respond correctly wins a free business-size ad in the print edition of The Dragon.

Mike Hall identified Glen Libby’s plate SKI WAGN in the December 17 issue.

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Helping people find wellness and resolution through deep relaxation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor many people here in midcoast Maine, spending time on the water is definitely recreational, not only in the sense of being an enjoyable pastime, but also in the therapeutic sense of renewing one’s peace of mind. This latter meaning is one reason Martinsville resident Joanna Calderwood chose to use “Sailing Hope” in her professional email address.

“Our sailboat is Hope,” Calderwood explains. “She has been a home for us—my husband Bill and I even spent a sabbatical year on her. And I believe being on the water is a metaphor for the work I do as a hypnotherapist because it can be such a good way to relieve stress. I also like to think that I can bring hope to people through my therapeutic work.”

Calderwood began her work as a hypnotherapist in 2011, after retiring from a career in education during which she focused on literacy and special education, mostly at the high school level (she still subcontracts part time with RSU 13 to perform assessments and other services). The career change was something she had long been contemplating.

“I had worked with a hypnotherapist years back following a divorce. At the time I thought, ‘This is so helpful! It is just amazing how this can help clarify issues for people.’ So I thought if I ever found a really good training program I’d like to get training in this.”

The hypnotherapist had put her into a light level of trance that allowed her to get to “a deeper thought process,” Calderwood says.  The therapist had then used guided imagery to help Calderwood work through different issues she had brought to the session—family issues, goals, things that were obstacles to moving forward with her life.

“She was able to help me relax deeply so I could access my subconscious mind and do some work,” Calderwood explains. “What is really going on when you do that is that you are really talking to yourself, your deeper self where your memories lie, where your issues lie, where your earliest learnings lie and sometimes stay hidden because in all the chatter of the conscious mind—errands to run, bills to pay, deadlines to meet—we don’t bring those things up very often to look at them.”

Calderwood acknowledges that some people fear that hypnosis is a form a mind control or a way for a hypnotist to discover a person’s closely held secrets. But she says that is definitely not the case. “When someone is in hypnosis they are not unconscious, they are aware of everything that is going on,” she points out, adding, “I think hypnosis is meditation, a deeper level of meditation. When we do inductions to take a person into a trance, we are just providing a series of steps to help people who aren’t used to being that deeply relaxed. Once relaxed, your body is able to restore balance chemically, mentally and spiritually. It is actually a physiological shift in your autonomic nervous system.” That shift, she says, is basically from a “flight-or-fight” response to the world to a “feed-and-breed” response that is about nurturing the body’s immune system, its digestive system—all the systems that are negatively impacted by stress.

Calderwood’s clients come from all walks of life. “I’ve worked with students, with professional people, with fishermen, veterans, people in the arts, retired people, carpenters, landscapers, janitorial workers—there are just so many stresses people have, whether from work, home, family, finance, or health issues. We are all seeking calm and resolution.”

Working with veterans, in particular, is something close to Calderwood’s heart. “I love that work. I have a real strong empathy for veterans and their issues. My father was a surgeon on Iwo Jima and I believe he suffered with PTSD. And during the Vietnam War I saw so many soldiers who returned completely changed or damaged.”

In this part of Maine, Calderwood notes, “we are in an atmosphere where hypnosis is not foreign. A lot of people who come to me are already familiar with holistic healing practices. People in this area are a little more informed because of the wealth of resources here.”

A downside of Calderwood’s practice, which includes life coaching, she admits, is that health insurance does not cover the cost. However, she adds, three to six session is often enough. “Hypnotherapy doesn’t usually take very long because we are addressing more immediate issues that a person would like to resolve, from relationship issues and money issues to finding ways to manage and cope with chronic illness or pain. It is not a deep therapeutic process of going back and working through something from childhood.”

But the connection between hypnotherapy and psychotherapy is growing closer, Calderwood notes. “There is a psychologist in Camden who uses hypnosis and who is training mental health professionals all over the midcoast area to bring it into their practices to help people relax and access different parts of their mind and emotions that may be blocked and might take a lot longer to get to than with just ‘talk’ therapy.”

In the end, Calderwood reflects, the most important thing is to find ways to let your body slow down and rest so it can come into balance and thus allow your mind and emotions to come into balance. “I think meditation is one of the most therapeutic things you can do,” she states with conviction. Also doing yoga, tai chi—or even going sailing, she notes with a smile—“only add more benefit.”—JW

(To contact Calderwood at Coastal Maine Hypnotherapy call 590-8636 or email SailingHope@msn.com.)

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

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Opportunities for visits and ‘shadowing’ are aimed at helping 8th grade students make an important choice

by Karizma Chickering

Karizma Chickering

Karizma Chickering

St. George Municipal School Unit is currently offering students a choice of five different high schools to attend.  The choices are: Camden, Medomak, Lincoln Academy, Oceanside and Watershed. This fall we have begun the important process of choosing the one that is the right fit for each of us.

Back in October, 8th graders visited the high schools to start deciding which they want to attend. They went to Lincoln and Medomak one day and another day they went to Camden and Oceanside.

The next step is for us to shadow high-schoolers at our chosen school. We will do that starting this month.  The teens will be heading to Camden Hills High School where they then will be paired up with a student who goes there and follow them throughout the day to see their daily routines and classes and to take tours. They will be checking out what classes there are like, the opportunities that exist for extra-curricular activities and generally get a feel for the school. Later in December the teens, accompanied by their parents, will be heading to Lincoln Academy for half the day. Lincoln will be providing a shuttle bus for transportation. The teens will also be shadowing there with other teens and tour guides.

Other shadowing opportunities will be available for Oceanside, Medomak and Watershed for the teens when time is available.

After we follow this process, we must complete our school choice forms and hand them in by January 31.

(Chickering is an 8th grade student at the St. George School.)

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