Vacationing in Ecuador—vet-style!

Yovino--pet ownersSM

People waiting in line for the vets

At the end of this past September, Glenn and Bethany Yovino took some vacation time to travel to Ibarra, Ecuador, a picturesque city that lies at the foot of the Imbabura Volcano in the northern part of the country. It was a reunion of sorts, since the reason the Yovinos decided to make this excursion was that Glenn’s lab partner in veterinary school, Joe Zulty, and his veterinary school roommate Ann Ryer, along with their spouses, were also going to be on the trip—Glenn, who owns and operates Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital located on Route 131 on the South Thomaston side of the St. George peninsula, hadn’t seen either classmate in many years. But while the prospect of experiencing the life and sights in another part of the world was exciting, this was to be, as Zulty put it, “a vacation with a purpose.” Zulty, in fact, was the leader of the trip, which was sponsored by World Vets, an organization that provides veterinary aid in developing countries and veterinary disaster relief worldwide.

“We were there to spay or neuter as many dogs and cats as we could during the week we would be there,” Glenn says. “Ninety percent of the animals were dogs and we spayed or neutered 160 animals. We worked 12-hour days.”

Altogether, the expedition included six vets, two licensed vet technicians, a pre-vet student and five other volunteers, which included Bethany and Glenn’s vet-school friends’ spouses. The group also had local help orchestrated by Protection Animal Ecuador.

“Ibarra has a population of about 150,000, but there are only one or two vets in the entire city,” Glenn explains. “The standard of living is not that high, and the cost of spaying or neutering a dog or cat is the same as here, so no one does it. The people just don’t have the money or mindset to spay early. But they love their pets.”

Bethany, whose role was to help with the animals’ post-operative recovery, points out that Ibarra’s pet owners seemed eager to avail themselves of the opportunity to come to the spay/neuter clinic. “The first morning we were amazed to find long lines of people waiting with their pets,” she recalls, noting that it was the same every day. “Everyone was so enthusiastic we felt like rock stars!”

And there were other surprises. For one thing, the building which housed the clinic was long and narrow with a floor below the surrounding grade. The result was that people outside could look through the windows and see the surgeries being performed below.

“I’m not keen on people watching me while I operate, especially not the pet owner,” Glenn laughs. “But I learned to ignore it.”

Performing surgery with an audience

Performing surgery with an audience

Another unexpected situation was that, although the group was well supplied with instruments and drugs, most of these were not tools or medications the vets were used to using. In addition, the method of sterilizing instruments seemed out of date, though no post-op infections were reported afterward. Difficult to get used to at first, too, Glenn says, was that each vet on the team was different. “Our approaches were all different because each of us does a different sort of veterinary work—one worked with lab animals, another  was an emergency room vet and the rest of us worked in small animal private practice, but we were all different.”

Glenn admits that spaying or neutering 160 animals makes just a small dent in the problem of small animal overpopulation in the city. “Ibarra has a huge stray dog population. But the city was using mass poisoning campaigns to control that population, something World Vets opposes. So World Vets cut a deal with the city to stop the poisonings and in return World Vets would come several times a year to provide the free spay and neuter clinics.”

Bethany and Glenn Yovino

Bethany and Glenn Yovino

By offering the free clinics, one of World Vets’ aims is to work at changing the way people think about how best to avoid overpopulation. “Today few shelters in Maine, for example, send a dog or cat that is not spayed or neutered home with a new owner—but that was not the case 20 years ago,” Glenn points out, noting that it used to be common practice to simply ask those adopting an animal to promise to get the procedure done. “Shelters have finally seen the importance of not leaving it to chance.” The hope, he says, is that in time attitudes will also change in places like Ibarra.

Asked if the Yovino’s time in Ecuador seemed a worthwhile way to spend some vacation time, both Glenn and Bethany respond affirmatively. “We came back jazzed,” says Glenn with a big grin. “The days were long, but it felt really good,” Bethany agrees.

Reflecting further, Glenn adds, “We wanted to do something positive, do it well and be appreciated. The people were very gracious.” —JW

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Embracing the barter economy

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Joanne O’Shea

Think “barter” and most people envision occasional neighborly transactions—like one person using his chain saw and splitter to clean up the storm-damaged maple in another person’s front yard in exchange for the cord wood produced. No money changes hands, but each person benefits. Seems simple enough, and very Maine. But what was a bit astonishing to members of the St. George Business Alliance (SGBA) attending the group’s November meeting was the information that, in the U.S. alone, bartering is a multi-billion dollar industry from which everyone in the room could benefit.

This news came from bartering expert Ken Baker, who was invited to speak to the SGBA by Craignair Inn owner, Joanne O’Shea, who is also president of the group. O’Shea knew Baker through her involvement with BarterWorx, a local bartering network (usually called a “trade exchange”) here in the midcoast area.

“I got started bartering when a woman from BarterWorx approached me about joining because she had a client who wanted to stay on the coast of Maine and so far there were no hotels or inns in this exchange,” O’Shea explains. “So I agreed that her client could rent one of our rooms using trade dollars.”

The trade dollars O’Shea gets for a room are electronically deposited into O’Shea’s BarterWorx account. She can then use those trade dollars to pay for goods or services available from other members of the BarterWorx trade exchange. Because BarterWorx is part of a national network of trade exchanges, O’Shea can also spend her trade dollars elsewhere in the country, such as for lodging while vacationing out of state.

“If I have the opportunity to get cash for a room, I’ll take it,” O’Shea admits. But she says there are advantages to having the option of accepting trade dollars. “Like many seasonal businesses here in Maine, we are cash poor in the spring. That’s when I am planting the gardens at the inn. Since Plants Unlimited participates in our local exchange, I can use the trade dollars I’ve accumulated from renting rooms to get the $500-worth of plants I need to make our grounds look really good rather than skimping because I’m low on cash.”

Another advantage, O’Shea says, is that she can get income from renting rooms for which she doesn’t have cash customers, especially during spring and fall. “I don’t usually take barter business in August, when we tend to be fully booked, but if I get a last-minute request for a barter in the high season and I happen to have a vacancy, I’ll accept it.” Likewise, for businesses that have inventory that isn’t moving, bartering can help them get full price for items that might otherwise need to be marked down to sell.

Basically, adding bartering to what a business offers increases its exposure to opportunities to make sales. “There are a lot of people out there looking to do business with other bartering businesses,” O’Shea points out.

There is some cash involved with trade exchanges, O’Shea is careful to note. Usually the owner/manager of the exchange charges a percentage fee for each transaction. The fees cover the cost of tracking transactions, providing regular statements to exchange members and annually issuing to members and to the IRS Form 1099-B (Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions).

The exchange manager is also responsible for working to expand participation, since a trade exchange works best when there is a wide range of goods and services available. In this respect, O’Shea says BarterWorx has lost some of its early momentum, something she, Baker and others are trying to address.

“Our local network is currently in a state of flux,” O’Shea admits. “But a number of people have told me they are interested in supplying new leadership.” Reflecting on the businesses in St. George, she adds, “I can’t think of a single service or product being offered that couldn’t be bartered. People make it more complex than it is. It’s just like having a bank account—you make deposits, you make withdrawals, you pay fees, you pay taxes.”—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

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Spruce Head, from Elwell’s Point

Spruce Head historic photoSMThis photograph is from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. 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 www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today!

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We are the Dragons!

The dragons of kindergarten

The dragons of kindergarten

At the St. George School, our mascot is a dragon. We got the cool idea of finding out more about the history of the dragon. We also asked people some questions about dragons.

Recently, we visited our school library and talked to the kindergarten class about dragons. Our librarian has been reading to them about dragons, so we thought it would be fun to ask them some questions that have to do with dragons. One question we asked them was, “What do dragons do?” Some of their answers were, “They fly,” “They stomp really loud,” and “They collect jewels.” We also asked them, “If you were a dragon, what would your special power be?” A few of their answers were, “fire,” “Santa Claus,” and “stomping.” We took a picture of them pretending to be dragons.

Later, we asked our principal, Ms. McLean, what she thinks of having a dragon as a mascot. “I love the dragon,” she said, “I think the dragon is an apt mascot because dragons breathe fire, and St. George has such a fiery spirit.”

Our home-room and Social Studies teacher, Mr. McPhail, also answered our question about having a dragon for a mascot. He said, “I think the dragon is unique and appropriate. Dragons can either be aggressive or cute, so we can crush you, or be cute and cuddly.”

Our English Language Arts teacher, Ms. Schmanska, also had some thoughts on dragons. “I love dragons. I think they are the best mythological creature ever conceived. From Grendel in the earliest known Old English poem, “Beowulf,” to the more modern character Smaug in The Hobbit, dragons have made formidable characters that needed to be slain. Other dragons are misunderstood and can actually be friendly. The symbolism of the dragon mascot is so perfect for us because sometimes the dragons need to be fierce and fiery, and sometimes they need to be nurtured and understood.”

—Sophia Campbell (Campbell is a 7th grade student at the St. George School.)

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A retelling of the story of St. George and the dragon

[Ed. note: The Red Cross Knight is a character who represents St. George, the patron saint of England, in the epic poem, “The Faerie Queene”, by Edmund Spenser, first published in 1590.]

The Red Cross Knight was sent by the Queen of the Fairies to fight against a deadly dragon. The princess rode next to him on a white donkey, and was leading a white lamb. A dwarf walked behind them carrying a bundle of food. The princess, whose name was Una, was covered by a black coat, as if she had a hidden sorrow in her heart. The dragon was causing the sorrow. Many frightened people left their homes and ran away, while others shut themselves in the castle with Una’s mother and father.

After many days of traveling, they came across a little house on a hill where a good old hermit lived. Una rested, while the Red Cross Knight climbed with the hermit to the top of the hill and looked out across the valley. He saw a glorious palace and wanted to go there at once. The hermit reminded him that before he could go to the palace, he had to go down to the valley and fight the dragon. Then the knight returned to Una.

The next morning, they both went down to the valley. Men and women cheered, and children clapped while they rode by. They heard the dragon’s hideous roar, and saw the dragon stretched out on the side of a great hill. When the dragon saw the knight, he was ready to battle. The dragon’s scales were fitted so closely, that no spear or sword could pierce them.

The Red Cross Knight tried twice to slay him, but was brushed away and fell to the ground. He got back up and went to attack the dragon again. The spear glanced off the dragon’s neck, but pierced his left wing. The dragon broke the spear and wrapped its tail around the horse’s leg. The horse threw the knight to the ground, trying to get loose.

The Red Cross Knight rose, and struck the dragon’s head, but the dragon scorched the knight’s face. When the knight fell, a healing pool of water bubbled from the ground. So the knight went back to the battle. The dragon pierced the knight’s shoulder, but the knight struck the dragon so many times that fire flew from the dragon’s coat and he put one paw up to defend himself. The knight severed the paw, but the dragon threw huge flames at him. The knight was forced to retreat. He fell under an apple tree, which dropped a healing dew that helped the knight.

The knight got up again, and the dragon was afraid when he saw him. The dragon opened his mouth ready to swallow him whole, but the knight ran his sword through his jaw, so that the dragon fell dead on the ground.

Since the Red Cross Knight slayed the dragon, he was able to marry the princess. They got married, and lived happily ever after.

 —Chloe Simmons (Simmons is a 7th grade student at the St. George School)

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Choosing seeds: Not as simple as it sounds

garden photo, Don MooreSMThose delicious catalogues of dreams have begun arriving and I have been contemplating my choices for next year’s vegetable crops. But this year, too, I find I am also contemplating farming politics and global connectedness. A seed, as it turns out, is not just a seed.

I know that I want to avoid treated seeds as these are not allowed for organic production. Treated seeds are seeds that have been coated with some sort of material, usually a fungicide or pesticide, to help improve the seed’s vigor and viability. Untreated seeds, obviously, don’t have this coating, and organic seeds not only are untreated, but they have been grown according to organic principles geared toward building soil and sustainable agriculture. I try to buy organic seeds, but take simply untreated seeds when a variety I want is not available as organic seed.

But this year I have one more filter to add to my seed decision-making—a filter that is all about the bees. As we know, our bee populations are in trouble and bees are dying off in unprecedented numbers. Without these pollinators all of agriculture is in trouble. Several of the major seed suppliers also produce neonicotinoids, pesticides that are being shown to be a huge risk to bees because these systemic pesticides are in all parts of plants treated with them, including the pollen and nectar. These neonicotinoids most likely have something to do with honey bee die-off. Indeed, the European Union has declared a two-year moratorium on these pesticides, hoping to help bee populations.

garden 2 Don MooreSMOkay, I want to do the right thing. But here’s the rub: Some of my favorite seeds only come from these neonicotinoid producers. Even though the seeds may be untreated, they are part of an industry linked to honey bee deaths. Let me stress: These are true favorites—Masai haricots verts, Raven zucchini, Gustus Brussels sprouts.

Ouch. Ignorance would be such bliss. Those Masai beans are superb—long, thin, tasty and productive all season on neat bushy plants, perfect for our raised beds. I like that the  Raven zucchini has tidy, non-vining plants, producing plenty of very dark green fruits. And I have only now, in December, eaten the last of my Gustus Brussels sprouts, the sprout that I had finally settled on growing after experimenting with other varieties.

I’m sad, but it seems to be time to move onward to looking for replacements. For me, it’s all about the bees.

—Anne Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

PHOTOS: Don Moore

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Trekkers: When personal vision meets up with a community need

10th grade Trekkers trip at Arches National Park

10th grade Trekkers trip at Arches National Park

Here in midcoast Maine, St. George resident Don Carpenter’s name has become almost synonymous with Trekkers, the non-profit, outdoor-based mentoring program for junior high and high school youth with which he has been associated since 1997. Perhaps this is because, although scores of community volunteers, board members and staff have played an invaluable role in supporting and developing the Trekkers program over the years, it has been Carpenter’s personal vision of how to, as he says, “turn young people on to life,” that has made an indelible mark on how Trekkers operates.

“I was 19 when I started a summer youth program in inner-city Pittsburgh,” says Carpenter, who grew up in that city. “I was studying for a degree in urban youth ministry at Geneva College and had gone to work at an inner-city program in Camden, New Jersey. I came home to Pittsburgh and thought, ‘Why not do the same thing here?’ So I located some underused churches and other facilities and recruited 55 college kids to run a summer program for neighborhood youth.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor Carpenter, working with disadvantaged youth was a bit of a family business. His father ran the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, which aimed to bring community stakeholders together to address problems affecting youth in the inner city. Likewise his uncle, Jack Carpenter, was a longtime youth minister, first in the Boston area and then in Maine.

Carpenter became so passionate about changing young lives through his inner-city program that he considered abandoning his college studies, but in the end stuck with them and graduated. Burn-out soon caught up with him.

Recuperating proved life changing. “I joined the staff of a cruise ship that was sailing in the Caribbean,” he says, smiling at the recollection. “I orchestrated activities for the kids travelling on the ship. I fell in love with working with kids again. I also got the travel bug. And the natural scenery was so beautiful that I fell in love with the outdoors.”

During those days at sea he also found himself pondering a class he had taken at Geneva. “The class was about utilizing camping to build a relationship. The professor started off by asking us, ‘Where do you want to go?’ We students were baffled—he was asking us to work together to decide how the class should proceed. Some of my classmates dropped out, but I loved the buy-in this approach developed.”

Following up on his cruise ship experience, Carpenter’s next step was to pursue a Master’s of Science in environmental education from The Audubon Expedition Institute and Lesley University. “I really went to Leslie to get a degree in experiential education,” Carpenter explains. “What I liked about the Audubon program was that it used a process of consensus decision making.” At Audubon, too, students and faculty learned about different bioregions together—they lived and travelled together on a retrofitted school bus and met with regionally based writers, scientists, activists, educators and community leaders to benefit from their on-the-ground perspective.

The Audubon Program was based in Belfast, so Carpenter was in easy reach of his uncle, Jack, who was then living in St. George and working with youth in the midcoast through Youth Forum Maine, which he had founded in 1992. In 1997, as Don was searching for a good project to fulfill a requirement of his Master’s program, Jack invited Don to help run a program for 7th graders they were calling Trekkers.

Jack Carpenter and Peter Jenks, rector of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Thomaston, with a small group of other community adults, had formed Trekkers in partnership with Thomaston Grammar School in 1994 in an effort to begin to address what seemed to be an emerging crisis of local youth losing stability in their lives. The group hoped to use Maine’s beautiful outdoors to build caring relationships between ‘at-risk’ youth and community adults to help strengthen the young people’s support systems. By 1996, Trekkers was also partnering with the St. George School.

After that first summer, Don Carpenter was hooked—and inspired. Here was an opportunity to use experiential learning, consensus decision making, and outdoor experiences to build nurturing relationships between students and adult mentors—all he needed was that retrofitted school bus to which the Audubon program had introduced him. He went to the board of Youth Forum Maine and asked it to both co-sign the loan for the purchase of the bus and provide him with a year’s salary of $25,000 to go forward with developing the Trekkers program. By 2000 Trekkers had achieved non-profit status, enabling it to raise money to fund its expenses on its own.

Over the course of about six years, Carpenter, the Trekkers board and the adults who volunteered to be mentors took what began as a program for 7th graders, extended it into 8th grade and then into the high school years. The application process was also opened to all interested students (but school personnel can also suggest students who they believe might especially benefit from the program)—a lottery system is used if there are more applications than spaces available. Today 85 percent of the students who enter Trekkers in 7th grade (the Rockland Middle School is also now involved) continue with the program right through to high school graduation, an unusually high retention rate of which Carpenter is proud. Each year’s class of 30 (10 students from each of the participating middle schools) is divided into two teams of 15 that stay together throughout the program. A Trekkers’ bus (there are now three of them) holds 27 people, making for a high mentor-to-student ratio.

7th grade Trekkers at Acadia National Park

7th grade Trekkers at Acadia National Park

While every Trekkers annual expedition or peripheral program involves most or all of five basic educational components—service, cultural awareness, environmental awareness, adventure-based education and wilderness experience—Carpenter believes the consensus decision making the students engage in “is the hardest, the greatest and most unrecognized element of the program.” Elaborating, he adds, “In addition to agreeing about all the components of their expedition, the students also must agree on what will be required of each student to participate in a trip—this involves academics, behavior and attendance at planning meetings.” Some, he says, don’t end up meeting those requirements. “That is very difficult,” Carpenter admits, “but the student was involved in making the decisions about those requirements—such as whether flunking a class in school would disqualify them from going. This kind of decision making forces all the students to clarify their values.”

Rock-climbing 7th graders at Acadia

Rock-climbing 7th graders at Acadia

What makes Trekkers different from other programs is that a student who doesn’t meet the requirements for a trip still remains a Trekker. Likewise, if a student needs to drop out for a year, they can rejoin their Trekkers team the next year. In the meantime, Trekkers’ program director, Meredith Lynt and its three program managers—Emily Carver, Hannah Tannebring and Alaina Ennamorati—along with Carpenter and other mentors, stay in touch.

“The program can’t trump the relationship with the student,” Carpenter emphasizes. “We’re meeting students where they are.”

While Carpenter has had a huge influence on the Trekkers program, the program has also influenced him. “I used to want every student on every trip to be turned on by the experience. I felt I had failed if that didn’t happen. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that every student is different. Light bulbs go on at different times.”

Importantly, too, Carpenter’s idea of youth who are “at risk” has shifted. “We are working all the time to help kids learn balance—in their intellectual selves, in their physical selves, in their emotional selves, in their social selves, in their spiritual selves. Looked at this way, every student is at risk.” —JW

For more information on Trekkers go to Trekkers.org.

Trekkers photos, courtesy of Trekkers

Don Carpenter photo, Julie Wortman

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In the news

IMG_1887SMLinda Bean announced a $3 million gift to LifeFlight toward the purchase of a third helicopter on November 20. The setting is the field owned by Lori Beth and David Schwartz, which is the designated landing zone in Port Clyde.

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

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A living quarry heritage

Historic photo of the Long Cove Quarry. The Pasture Quarry, being located on the west side of Route 131, was connected to the main part of the Long Cove Quarry by a railway. This photograph is from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine.

Historic photo of the Long Cove Quarry. The Pasture Quarry, being located on the west side of Route 131, was connected to the main part of the Long Cove Quarry by a railway. This photograph is from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine.

This past summer, the rock walls being constructed at the street entrance to the new Jackson Memorial Library attracted a lot of attention. Fitting the irregular blocks of granite was a painstakingly slow process. Jon Smith of Rockers, working with landscape designer Anne Cox of Hedgerow, was in charge of the project. All of the rock, including the intriguing granite post which supports the new library sign, came from one of St. George’s old granite quarries known in at least one deed as the “Pasture Quarry,” a parcel of land that later became part of the Long Cove Quarry acquired by the Booth Brothers in the early 1880s (the Pasture Quarry is now owned by Overlock Excavations of Owls Head). So in one way, aside from providing an attractive entrance for the new library, Smith’s stonework also honors the fact that the local quarry industry was a robust part of St. George’s economic and community life from about 1850 until after World War II.

Pasture Quarry tailings were selected for use in the library entrance.

Pasture Quarry tailings were selected for use in the library entrance.

Smith hand selected the pieces for the library wall and sign post from tailings left by the old quarrying operations. “When I’m picking my way through that quarry I definitely feel a connection with the guys who worked there,” Smith says. “But we’re using stuff they wouldn’t have been able to use because they were hand splitting the rock. We can use power saws. By the looks of it, they were making paving stones—paving was a big industry before the advent of using asphalt and concrete for roads and sidewalks.”

An especially impressive aspect of the work the masons of the past performed, Smith notes, is that they could “feel the rift” in the rock with their hands, and thus know where the rock should be split. The metal plug and feathers embedded in the backside of the library sign’s granite post is a remnant of this hand splitting process.

According to  Albert Smalley in his History of St. George originally published in 1976, the size of the Long Cove Quarry operation was vast. “The amount of granite taken from the two Long Cove quarries is fantastic. Over two-and-a-half million blocks were taken from there in 1895. In addition to the blocks, over 3,000 bases for monuments were shipped, requiring over 30 vessels.”

Pasture Quarry today

Pasture Quarry today

By comparison to the industrial scale of the old quarry operations, picking through the Pasture Quarry’s tailings for useable rock for the library and other local projects, Smith says, is a meticulous, sometimes meditative, but often rewarding process. “I’ve found amazing pieces there—including very nicely weathered rock. That’s something the old timers wouldn’t have considered serviceable. But today we seem to like that.” —JW

 

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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