Offering a celebration of place

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGeoff Bladon still recalls the impact of a black-and-white film about the famous Canadian painter A.Y. Jackson that he watched in sixth grade. “I was bowled over,” the Montreal native says. “Although I had been making drawings from early childhood and had been taking art classes on Saturdays at the local recreation center, it had never occurred to me that a person could make a life as a painter. I can still see the scenes of Jackson canoeing and hiking in the wilderness and then setting up an easel and painting the natural world around him. I thought it would be a great life.”

As it turned out, Bladon’s father had other ideas for his son. “Father discouraged any serious pursuit of art as an occupation, which was understandable,” Bladon says with a wry smile. “So I went to college in Manitoba and then I went to law school, which I’m glad I did, but all the time I continued drawing, sometimes for student newspapers.”

Over the course of 15 years practicing law in London, Ontario, then five years serving as a criminal court judge in the Yukon and finally joining the Faculty of Law at the University of New Bunswick in Fredericton, Bladon continued drawing and, eventually, painting in oils. A.Y. Jackson’s impressionistic, plein air work also continued to be a source of inspiration.

“Being outside and painting is a real rush,” he says. Another rush, he adds, comes from reveling in the environs of St. George, where he and his wife Daila bought a home in 1995. Bladon’s connection with Maine is longstanding. “As an anglophone adult living in Montreal, my grandmother ‘summered’ in Kennebunk Beach staying at the Narragansett Inn. My father would accompany her as a boy,” he says, adding, “Francophone Montrealers went to Old Orchard Beach.” Bladon’s father started bringing Geoff to Maine when Geoff was about 7 years old.

“Maine has always been a draw for me,” Bladon says. “Part of our decision to take the job in Fredericton in 1987 was so that we could be close to Maine.” The couple travelled  to the midcoast area in particular, once staying in a B&B in Camden and then, in 1993 renting a house in Port Clyde from Cindy Lang for the month of May. “That was the beginning of the end,” Bladon laughs. They returned to Port Clyde the following year, all the time taking note of properties that were for sale. In 1995 they bought a small house on Main Street in Tenants Harbor next to the marsh. The couple now divides their time between St. George and Fredericton, where Bladon continues to work part-time doing labor adjudication work.

“Like a lot of us who have picked St. George to live, we really enjoy what we have here—I love this place. It is a wonderfully different and unique area. It is nothing like Camden or Rockland or Belfast or Boothbay or even Friendship. The indigenous architecture and the landscape itself is what makes it different. In my paintings I try to offer a celebration of this area.”

The Apple House

The Apple House

The range of images in Bladon’s current show at the Jackson Memorial Library testifies to this commitment. From the farm buildings at Harjula’s (as seen from the little cemetery on Westbrook), to the Apple House in Wiley’s Corner, the Tenants Harbor Boatyard and Drift Inn Beach, Bladon makes clear that the beauty he finds on the peninsula and in the surrounding area is very specific in terms of season, time and place. While he has not painted every scene outdoors—larger paintings are difficult to complete in the two or so hours before the light changes—for the mood and sense of place and light, Bladon always relies on first-hand sketches. Photos provide factual information when needed. “Sometimes I need to double check things like the number of windows on a facade,” he explains.

Bladon admits that it is “a source of validation” when someone likes one of his paintings well enough to buy it. And getting juried into a show provides a similar satisfaction. But Bladon says getting that kind of support is not why he paints. “The actual doing of the painting is what makes the blood flow,” he emphasizes. “And what keeps you at it is that you never get it right, not fully. The painting that is in your head is not what comes out. There are keepers and then paintings that are not.”

The important thing, too, he clearly believes, is that while he has not, like his hero A.Y. Jackson, earned a living as a painter, he has, like Jackson, made painting a life.

Bladon is represented by Tidemark Gallery in Waldoboro and Gallery 78 in New Brunswick. Bladon’s show at the Jackson Memorial Library runs through February. Also part of the exhibit is the work of Charlene Vanderslice, paintings that are inspired by the marine realm and dedicated to saving the oceans. —JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

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Coming together as a school

At St. George School, we have a community meeting every month. Each month, a different class runs the community meeting. Different classes show what they’re learning, and the older kids, such as ourselves, talk about what’s going on in our school. We all sit in a big circle around the gym floor to show that together, we’re a whole. The purpose of community meetings is that we come together as a school and celebrate the achievements of others.

One important tradition we have at St. George is that we sing our school song at every community meeting. Sometimes, the middle level band plays while the rest of the students and teachers sing the song. Our school song was written by Robert Jean, a teacher at our school. He wrote the song with his second grade class, (which is now the present eighth grade class at Oceanside West.)

We asked Mr. Jean how he came up with our school song. He said, “I was driving in my car and I remembered that Mr. Bernard, (our former guidance counselor) wanted to come up with a school song. I knew the tune from other school songs, and I just started putting words to it! My second grade class helped, but I came up with most of the lyrics. None of the words have changed since then. I also wrote a second verse, but we decided to only use the first one.”

We also asked him what his experience was like the first time they sang the song at a community meeting. “It was awesome! I didn’t know if the kids were going to sing loud enough, or if anyone would like the song. After, when we went back to our classroom, Mr. Schooley (our former principal,) came in and told us how much he liked it!”

St. George School Song:
There is a school in Tenants Harbor
In our hearts so dear.
Community, respect and honor,
Targets that are clear.
Students, parents, teachers, friends
Working side by side.
Give a cheer for dear old St. George
Show your dragon pride!

If you would like to attend a community meeting at our school, you can call the office to find out when the next one is or read the weekly newsletter to find out.
—Chloe Simmons and Sophia Campbell (Simmons and Campbell are 7th grade students at the St. George School.)


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Student council members presented a check for $170.72 made out to the American Heart Association at a St. George School community meeting day in February 2014. Under the leadership of school nurse Autumn Miller, the students made paper hearts, which they sold for $1 and students and staff then wrote ways to keep their heart healthy on them. The hearts were hung on both sides of the walls of the school’s long hallway. The students also sold Heart Association dress pins. At the community meeting, the members of the student council urged their fellow students “to love your hearts by being physically active, eating healthy foods and being educated about heart disease and its risk factors.” They noted that heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States.

PHOTO: Sonja Schmanska

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Preparing for what spring may bring

no snow cover for perennial bedSMNovember’s freakishly early snow storms notwithstanding, this started as a relatively mild winter with no significant snow thus far. Quite a bit of rain, but too warm for snow, hence the soft, unfrozen ground right up until the first of the year. At the end of December I saw daylily shoots emerging from the ground and was aware of buds on some trees and shrubs starting to swell. Eeek! Stop! And, indeed, January’s frigid temperatures are stopping that false-spring nonsense. That’s the upside of arctic air covering the midcoast. The downside of this frigid winter blast is that we still have no snow on the ground to speak of.

The winter of 2014 had a lot of snow (an understatement) along with a good dose of polar temperatures. That made it a perfect winter for perennials in the garden. Once the ground freezes and there’s a blanket of snow on top, freezing is about as cold as it gets for the plants. So I did not lose a single plant in the garden due to cold weather last winter. As a matter of fact, spring and summer were delicious seasons full of vigorous growth from even newly planted gardens.

But now, in January 2015, with open ground showing in the gardens, I am a bit worried about how the plants will fare. With temperatures in the single digits and wind bringing wind chills way below zero, we will probably lose some perennials since when there is no insulating layer over tender roots, the soil can keep getting colder and colder and colder. And that can spell death for some of our plants, particularly those on the northern edge of their preferred habitat. It didn’t help that December was so warm, stimulating growth when normally plants should be hardened off and quite dormant by then.

I remember a number of years ago we had a bitterly cold winter and absolutely no snow. (That was the year the frost was more than four feet deep in the ground—that’s cold!) Spring was sad for gardeners looking forward to precious plants putting forth their floral display. Even hardy old shrubs like burning bush died that winter. And perennial gardens were spotty in the spring to say the least. We might be in for another winter like that one.

What’s a body to do? If one has not already covered the gardens with an insulating layer of mulch such as fir boughs, it’s not too late to do that as a hedge against even colder temperatures. That might help, and will certainly help keep plants from breaking dormancy too early should we get a warm snap again. Otherwise, the most we can do, given the vagaries of winter, is be prepared mentally for what spring may bring. As always, each spring just adds more information about what thrives here regardless of the weather in winter.

In the spring I will probably assess the gardens, divide those plants that have proven to be hardy, replacing those that died. I also know not to be too hasty in declaring death, as some winters the frost takes a very long time getting out of the ground, slowing the re-emergence of some perennials. I also know that I always like experimenting with new plants, so I expect I will find some nifty replacements for the plants that don’t make it. That’s part of the fun of gardening.
—Anne Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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Drift Inn Beach

Drift Inn Beach historic photoSM

This 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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Where in St. George…?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you know where this is? Send your answer to betsy@stgeorgedragon.com. The first correct answer wins a free business card-sized ad in The Dragon. Del Welch identified the yield sign at the Glenmere and Turkey Cove Road intersection that appeared  in the December 18 issue
of The Dragon.

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

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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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