The challenges behind creating a compelling outdoor mural aimed at celebrating MCST’s presence in Rockland

Computer rendering of new MCST mural

In the fall of 2016, when mid-coast voters overwhelmingly approved a $25-million bond for a new 89,400 square-foot building for the Mid-Coast School of Technology (MCST), the school’s board of directors knew it wanted the new structure not only to be a state-of-the art facility for its career and technical education programs, but to also make a compelling visual statement about its mission. And the school’s executive director, Elizabeth Fisher, had just the person in mind to make that possible: St. George artist, Katharine Cartwright.

“Before the vote, my husband Dan Verrillo and I had been involved in discussing with executive director Fisher and others at MCST the possibility of setting up a scholarship fund because we really believe in the school’s mission,” Cartwright says. “I guess she looked me up on my website and saw my ‘Laws of Nature’ paintings, which are mostly mechanical, and really loved them.”

So Fisher asked Cartwright to serve as “Artist Consultant” on a project to create a mural for the exterior of the new building that would not only make the visual statement the MCST board hoped for, but would also involve students from the school’s graphic design program and MCST Design/Technology Instructor Brandon Soards, who would be responsible for the technology that would be involved.

“When they asked me to do this, of course I said ‘Yes!’ immediately, thinking, ‘Won’t this be fun?’” Cartwright says with a wry laugh. “I thought, too, creating a mural would also be a way of participating in the Rockland arts community. And I liked the idea of being somewhat behind the scenes, pushing the students forward.”

At first Cartwright’s hope was to use working groups of the design-oriented MCST students in designing the mural. “So I started working with the kids in 2017, batting around ideas about how to represent the 16 different programs offered at the school in the design,” she recounts. “But eventually I realized that it wouldn’t be possible to meld all the ideas into one, that we had to clearly focus on one idea.”

That idea, Cartwright determined, would be what had been the “heart and soul” of the school’s curriculum from the beginning and would continue being so into the future: marine technology, automobile technology, computer technology and carpentry.

“So I thought, okay, I have to make this work. I know what in my head I want it to be, but I also have to allow the students to have some control over the project so it’s not just me designing it, which was certainly not what the board wanted. So I identified a student, Matthew Shaw from Oceanside High School, who I felt from the beginning really understood the sort of design we needed and who could move somewhat in that direction without fully imitating me.”

Shaw worked on the project with Cartwright during the summer of 2018 until school started up again last September, when Cartwright asked him to assemble a group of students he wanted to work under him. Shaw was the lead designer, with Alexys Schaeffer from Camden Hills Regional High School the lead 3D modeler and Jette Keene from Medomak Valley High School the lead texture designer.

“It was wonderful working with Matthew,” Cartwright says. “Of course, when you are working with somebody what’s in their mind is going to be completely different from what’s in yours. So for a while it was like playing tennis. I would hit an idea his way and he would hit it back with a little change on it and I would hit back and we would go back and forth—it became a true collaboration.”

Cartwright says that the bulk of the time she and the MCST students worked on the mural’s design was taken up not so much with artistic issues as with associated technical challenges of one kind or another. Chief among these, she explains, was correcting for the inevitable distortions that arise when creating a work of art of a scale that dwarfs a human being.

“When a mural extends a distance above your head it affects how your eyes see it. So we had to deal with what we thought the distortions would be when it’s blown up to full size,” Cartwright says. “We were able to project the design on the building digitally and then look at it from many different angles. We hope we have it right.”

Paintings such as this one by Katharine Cartwright, “Fourier’s Law,” led MCST to invite her to be the Artist Consultant for the mural project.

Related to this was creating a design with elements that are interesting in themselves but that also harmonize with each other—something which was complicated by the fact the mural was to turn a 90-degree corner. “So we worked hard on having a variety of shapes and sizes and orientations, on how these forms relate to each other and on what path the eye will take as it looks across the mural,” Cartwright says. “So we had to establish what I call ‘flow paths’ for the eye: when you’re driving past it looks a certain way, if you’re walking into the building it looks a certain way, if you’re walking by on the sidewalk it looks a certain way. So we had to consider all those different viewpoints, which is hugely difficult to do. And then the way the building is oriented to the road and the distance from the road are also factors. I had to really, really nitpick on this because when you blow a design up to the size needed you see every flaw.”

That the mural was created digitally, Cartwright notes, not only meant that the designers could anticipate problems that might arise when the mural was at its full size, but also that they could get visual effects that they wouldn’t have been able to get if they were painting this on the building’s walls. Instead, the mural will be digitally printed onto a vinyl that will be adhered to large metal sheets that are 4-feet by 8-feet in size.

Cartwright looks forward to the moment when the mural will be installed on the new building, possibly this coming May or June. And while the 13 months or so she spent on the project were an intense experience, she is pleased to have been part of it.

“I loved it. I loved the challenge. And I really enjoyed mentoring the students and seeing them grow. So I think that between the mentoring and participating in the Rockland art community in this way—afterall, this will be the largest mural in a town that has declared itself the ‘Art Capital of Maine’—and also doing something to help elevate MCST’s presence in the community has been very important to me.”—JW

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Ye olde fishin’ holes…

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Ice hole at the north end of the marsh

The air can be crisp on some winter days. The snow may be fresh and the animal tracks can feel like they can go on forever. Other days, however, are loaded with little more than super slick ice, backed with sideways blowin’ wind that generously brings a single-digit chill with it. The world can seem pretty trackless on a day like that. As if no animal in their right mind would trek, much less find any other animal out and about. And while one of these days comes with challenges different than the other, both days can be great to look for animal sign!

When venturing out onto any frozen, aquatic biome (the Tenants Harbor marsh for instance), it’s a good idea to be aware of where patches of thin ice might be. Natural openings in ice occur for numerous reasons and can be anticipated along the ice edges, directly above and below beaver dams, or where a creek runs into a pond or other waterway. At places where water is flowing fast there might even be open water after a string of negative-degree days. Survival instincts hopefully tell you to stay clear of such areas, but openings like these can actually be hot spots to check for tracks and trails even on the bitterest of days! It doesn’t get lower than 32 degrees in the fresh water below and so life will go on under the ice regardless of the blizzards and winds we deal with above. Ice holes offer a glimpse into such worlds.

There is a wonderful ice hole at the north end of the marsh which stays open all winter. It’s a main entry point used by several species of semi-aquatic mammals to access the non-frozen, fresh water habitat below. When an otter crosses to the marsh from the Ponderosa or Seavey Cove, they often make a beeline for this opening upon arrival. There also happens to be an otter latrine located within 10 feet of the hole. The three local otters, which I lovingly refer to as “Moe, Larry, and Curly,” all mark at this latrine, and are known to come out from under the ice simply to spraint and then return to under. Otters are creatures of habit and will mark such a spot regardless of weather!

Mink trail with tail track

American Mink will also use this hole to gain access to the water world below. On an especially cold day this winter a mink came out from under the ice, explored a very short distance, and then returned to the hole. The mink left a section of “tail tracks” near the opening, documenting a period of focused activity at the opening—possibly working on keeping the hole open. On cold days some openings require a bit of maintenance.

Another day, there was a set of muskrat tracks coming out of the hole and then marching off through the woods. I followed the trail maybe 400 feet to a separate wetland system I had not visited previously. The muskrat obviously knew the terrain well—better than I did, for sure—and exactly where it was going. The hole put the muskrat close to this secret pond, and to the next set of plants for it to mack on. You just never know what you might find at an opening like that.

Pickerel remains at the ice hole

But this isn’t the only ice hole in the marsh of course! Earlier this winter, I followed an otter trail left by “Larry” that led to a hole in the ice that was in the middle of the marsh. The trail was focused and direct—this otter obviously knew of the opening and possibly helped to keep it open. Larry went in and out of the water several times as evidenced by the significant amount of tracks in the area. Eventually the otter headed to the west, towards the Ponderosa, but not before feasting on a pickerel it had brought up from below. All that the otter left was the fish’s mouth and a bloody spot alongside the opening. Ask anyone who ice fishes and they will tell you the same thing—catching fish is easier if you can get to them (them being fish). This was Larry’s fishin’ hole for the day and, needless to say, I now visit this spot every time I get on the ice.

Holes in ice are key for semi-aquatic mammals and critters to access food and for transortation. Conditions might be rough on the surface, but at the same time life goes on underneath. Being critters of habit, these animals will still come out from under—even if it’s “just” to mark a latrine – leaving clues to activity as clear as snow. One just needs to make it to the openings!

And so we’ll see you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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A brief history of the town poor farm

The history of how poor people were dealt with in St. George has varied over time. The early records of the town following incorporation in 1803 mention the practice of auctioning off the poor to the lowest bidder. The auction price was what the town would have to pay the bidder for caring for the poor. Therefore, a lower amount was paid for the able bodied (this might include a widow and her children) because they could work, and a higher amount was paid for the elderly and infirm who couldn’t contribute to household income. This auction took place at the annual town meeting and was good for one year. This was felt to be a good practice by the poor because if you ended up with someone who did not treat you well, there was a light at the end of the tunnel at the end of the year.

Another practice that preceded the auction, and dated back to the 1700s, was the “warning out of town.” If it was felt that any newcomer to town may become a charge to the town, the town fathers would issue a notice to the constable to order the people to leave town. They may or may not have left town, but this put them on notice that they could not come to the town for assistance.

At a town meeting in 1830, St. George voters created a committee to look into the creation of a poor farm. Like true New Englanders, this option was looked at as saving money. Then, in 1837 the Town of St. George purchased from Benjamin Linnekin for $1,600 a piece of land containing 100 acres. The town owned this property, which was located just north of Wiley’s Corner, until 1945 when it was sold to August and Joanna Johnson. During this period those needing assistance from the town would be admitted to the poor farm. Town records report those individuals who were admitted during the year and those in residence as of the end of the year.

In the early years of the poor farm the residents not only included the able-bodied poor and the elderly and infirm, but was the place where you would find orphans, criminals and those suffering from mental illness. Those who were able were expected to work the fields and care for the animals. There was usually a superintendent of the farm and his wife, the matron of the poor farm, who was very important as success of the farm depended upon her overseeing the gardens and livestock, plus being the caregiver to the elderly and infirm.

The old poor farm property is currently owned by Alan and Kitzi Benner, but the old buildings are gone. —John Falla

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Wickham Skinner, advocate of local conservation and education

Longtime St. George resident Wickham Skinner Jr. died at the age of 94 at the end of January. He was a recognized expert in industrial production and enjoyed a 24-year career on the faculty of Harvard Business School. In 1984 he and his wife Alice moved to a 28-acre Saltwater farm in St. George. The couple were active sailors. Wick also earned his pilot’s license and took up painting soon after moving here. He also enjoyed playing tennis and did so into his early 90s.

Wick served on the boards of many educational and community organizations in Maine, but members of the St. George community will long remember Wick for the significant contributions he made to the quality of life here. A man deeply committed to conservation of the natural environment, he was an active champion of the work of the Georges River Land Trust. As John Hufnagel, vice-chair of the Trust’s board, noted after Wick’s death, “We will miss Wick. He was always generous with his time and pondered questions asked him with his open intellect and experience as a listener. He delivered advice with a personal caring and grace which was always taken to heart by us because we knew he cared deeply. Wick acted upon his beliefs with certainty, and put a large piece of his beautiful land in a conservation easement to help protect forever a stretch of our treasured St. George River.”

A distinguished educator, Wick also became a booster of the St. George School after it became its own Municipal School Unit. School superintendent Mike Felton recalls Wick coming to him more than three years ago with an offer to fund a project that had a 50/50 chance of success, something the school might not normally do because of the expense and risk involved. “So we began the Makerspace initiative,” Felton said. “For me and so many staff, students and community members, Wick reminded us that anything is possible and that this school community can serve, challenge and engage all students. For some students, the Makerspace has been a lifesaver. Where they may have been less engaged and drifting through school in the past, now they are designing 3D models and building and programming robots that perform specific tasks.  For all students, the Makerspace Initiative challenges them to apply their creativity and intellect to solve problems. It has moved our students from being consumers of technology to producers—and with that change comes a feeling of empowerment that is priceless.”

Wick Skinner loved St. George and loved Maine. That he showed that love so very concretely has been a great gift. —JW

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Kitchen garden talk: Deer prevention? (Part one)

At the end of last month’s “Kitchen garden talk” column, at the suggestion of George Tripp we asked readers “What works best for deer prevention?” We asked several St. George gardeners we know their views. We got some very interesting responses—and not enough space to run them all this month, so we will run a second column on the topic in April. —JW

Mark Bartholomew, Tenants Harbor: Last summer we had far less deer damage than usual.  In the past, we’ve used Deer Tape fairly effectively.  It does seem to be a deterrent to deer entering an area to feed. But what seemed to help more than anything else is a trick I learned from my Yupik (Alaska Native) friend Joe.  When we are processing salmon at his camp on the Kenai River, we are frequently pestered by yellowjackets.  These critters are quite carnivorous, love salmon and will dispute you for the fillets.  Joe always takes a juicy chunk of salmon and places it on a platform above our work space.  The yellowjackets find it rewarding to go there where no one is swatting at them and they go quietly about their business as we cut fish without worrying about using an EpiPen.

Our home in Tenants Harbor was built on an established deer trail. Said trail leads right to our backyard raised beds.  So based on Joe’s strategy, I went about 20 yards up the trail and started putting out goodies for the deer.  I began doing this after the chard reached a tempting size.  Goodies included a little corn, apples—even peelings from the pie making—and trimmings from pruning and other gardening.  They even went for corn cobs, which they cleaned very well.  My game camera provided evidence that they would stop there, have a snack and move on past other temptations.  It seemed to work, even without deer tape, rotten garlic, human hair, human urine or coyote pee (all of which work but must be replenished frequently). They spared our chard until well after frost had killed everything else and I had to quit feeding them as deer season had begun and feeding (baiting) is not permitted then.

I have spoken with others who have planted a sacrificial crop nearby with the same result.  There is a special deer feedlot mix for this.  Good solution if you have the space.

Despite all the best measures, some deer are clever and persistent and cause significant damage.  When this happens, and the offending critter can be reliably identified, the lethal option might be in order but only if all else fails (and the season is open).  So far, I’ve not had to exercise that option on our neighborhood herd and hope that doesn’t have to happen, especially with our very special antlered doe that hung around all summer and fall with her twin lambs.

In a war of wits with hungry deer, I frequently feel unarmed.  Working with them does seem a little more effective than outright conflict.

Good luck to all of you who garden in this deer haven called St. George!

Jan Limmen, Tenants Harbor: I use bird netting placed over certain veggies, laid directly on top or slightly raised so as not to touch the veggies or other plants. I also spray the non-edible foliage of root crops, like carrots, with a product called “Liquid Fence.” The only spray I found to be very effective. Repeat spraying after a heavy rain is advisable.

I have in mind to put up a simple seven-foot plastic wire fence around my little vegetable plot. Love to use my “sling shot” when applicable. At some areas I will place on skewers pieces of Ivory soap. This would be a trial, someone recommended.

Next issue: What works best for deer prevention? (Part two) There is still an opportunity to add your observations! Send your replies to, or to Julie, c/o St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860.

PHOTO: Loreen Meyer

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Business alliance announces scholarship

The St. George Business Alliance (SGBA) is pleased to announce that it plans to award a $1,000 scholarship to a deserving high school graduate from St. George in the spring of 2019. The student and one parent must be full-time residents of St. George for the last two full school years. At the time of application, the student must be accepted by and planning to attend an accredited college, university, business or trade school in the fall of 2019.

The deadline for applications is April 30, 2019. Application packets are available in the St. George Town Office, at the Jackson Memorial Library, and from guidance counselors at high schools attended by our St. George students.

The SGBA is a local non-profit trade association of businesses, individuals, civic and non-profit organizations whose mission is to promote business and cultural prosperity in St. George. As part of this mission, SGBA members strive to help students receive the education needed to pursue their chosen careers. This will be the second consecutive year that the SGBA has awarded a scholarship to a deserving high school graduate from St. George.

For more information, please email SGBA at or call SGBA Scholarship Administrators Rosemary Limmen (372-8102) or Jake Miller (322-8880).

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‘Farmhouse Frost’—seeing ‘a little more than what you’re used to’

For those of us who don’t live in a completely weather-tight home, frost on a window is a commonplace of wintry mornings in St. George. But in 2010 Martinsville resident and macro-photographer Elizabeth Root Blackmer began to realize that the ordinary frost she was seeing on her farmhouse windows had become provocative enough to take out her camera.

“I think that on the edge of our vision there’s more we’d like to see, just as we’d like to see the stars better. The main thing with macro-photography is that you get to explore just a little more detail than you can actually see. But you sort of know what it is or you may know or not know—it is on the edge of that. You can play with ambiguity about what it is or you can choose it where you know what it is but you see a bit more. That arouses curiosity, to see a little more than what you’re used to. And that’s what happens with the frost images.”

After eight winters of photographing her farmhouse’s frost, Blackmer sent LensWork a submission of 70 images for possible publication, resulting in an extraordinary 23-page color spread of 28 of Blackmer’s photographs titled “Farmhouse Frost” in December 2018. LensWork, its homepage stresses, is “a bimonthly photography publication about photographs (rather than cameras!),” with “articles, interviews and portfolios all about images and the creative process.”

Blackmer, who is now retired from a career in academia, says she “ended up doing photography on the two ends of my career.” She first became interested in photography in high school and then continued with it in college (while studying fine arts at Harvard) and graduate school (while getting a PhD in communication research at Stanford). Macro photography was an early interest.

“In my teens I discovered that I could reverse a lens, tape it to my camera, and explore a new world,” she noted in the introduction to her LensWork “Farmhouse Frost” spread. But time for photography soon gave way to other priorities—her family (she and husband Hugh raised two children) and her academic career. It wasn’t until 2008, after retirement, that she found herself wanting to learn digital photography and to start taking pictures again. Coincidentally, an invitation from their son to come to California to watch him and his wife run in the Big Sur marathon, she says, provided an unexpected impetus to do just that.

“There were several events of different distances connected with the marathon and Hugh and I decided we would do the 21-mile walk while the younger ones did the 26.2-mile marathon. We had to train for that during the winter because the marathon was in May. But walking all winter, I thought I’d get bored so I said, okay, I’ll take a picture every day and post it publicly on Flickr. So that was the way I reentered the world of photography.”

Those 2008 shots were taken around the roads of St. George—pictures of nature, houses and anything that caught Blackmer’s interest.

“Then I got a macro lens in the late winter of 2010. I went crazy! That was just what I wanted! But I wanted to get even closer to my subjects so very soon I also got extension tubes which go between the lens and the camera and they allow more magnification. That launched me into my macro-photography.” Between getting this new equipment and Maine’s house-confining wintery days, the ever-changing patterns of frost on her home’s windows became a compelling photographic focus.

One of the things she likes about macro-photography, Blackmer says, is that “there’s something familiar about the subject matter even if you don’t know what it is. And one of the things I see is that there are patterns you can observe in macro-photography that you observe at other scales. For instance, I took a picture of some sand ripples at Drift Inn beach and I saw that they looked like mountain ranges, that they looked like they were taken from an airplane. I like to have that ambiguity in my photographs, where you don’t know the scale.” The frost in most of her images, she notes, covers an area of only about one square-inch although the pictures don’t give any indication of that.

Blackmer also observes that with her frost images, in particular, there are aspects that are philosophical. “You look at a photo of frost and it is inorganic, but there it is reminding us of patterns that we see in feathers or ferns that are organic. So there are patterns that cross the organic/inorganic boundary, our perception of what that seemingly fundamental distinction is.”

In addition, if at one level Blackmer’s frost images are fascinating as records of what randomly-occurring conditions produce, these photographs also owe a great deal to her manipulations of those images. “I like to play with the lines, and with the boundaries of the photograph and how those interact. I also sometimes intensify the colors that the frost picks up. There’s quite a few elements to what I’m doing.”

Although the December spread in LensWork represents what Blackmer feels is a body of work that is complete and can stand on its own, she says she’ll persist in taking pictures of frost, noting that she just recently posted a new frost photo on Flickr. “Still,” she admits with a wry smile, “these days the frost has to be pretty attractive to me for me to get out the camera and go for it.”—JW

Blackmer’s frost images were taken with a Nikon D800 or D5000, a 60mm macro lens and a 36mm extension tube, braced against the inner window pane. Further information about Blackmer and her work can be found at There will be a show of her photographic work this summer at Granite Gallery in Tenants Harbor from July 12-17, with an opening reception with live music and refreshments on July 12 from 5-8pm.

PHOTOS: Elizabeth Root Blackmer

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Marsh a-track-tions

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Bobcat register trail

A good snow can mean freedom in the woods. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and you are no longer restricted to trails (not that you truly were before, but anyway). You can follow your own path, go your own way, wander around to your little heart’s content! Grab a friend, exploring is sweeter when shared!

Ice can be quite liberating as well, and not just for humans. For much of the year, marshes and wetter wetlands are largely “walk arounds” for animals that “would prefer not to enter the muck and get stuck.” Areas that are sloggy, mucky and downright impassable to many four-(and two-) legged critters become hunting zones, thoroughfares and even skating rinks when a layer of ice is added. No canoe is necessary here!

Combine the two (thick ice and a fresh layer of snow) and the wandering can be heavenly. Animal trails from the night before can often be seen at a distance, and much can be interpreted from answering a couple of questions even before you get a close look at a single track.

Are the tracks in a straight(ish) line of what appears to be single tracks? If so, the animal you are tracking may have been “direct registering” its steps. Direct register is when a walking/trotting four-legged critter places its back foot directly where the corresponding front foot had been. A track in a track, two tracks in one, appearing to be a single track. This walking style is efficient in snow, grasses and most habitats and is used by wild dogs and cats. Some domestic dogs may direct register a bit, but rarely do they maintain this formation for lengths of time without jumping and having fun–and they are fun to track! On the marsh in Tenants Harbor, though, the main direct registers are coyote, fox and bobcat.

Take a closer look at a couple of tracks in the trail you found. Do they have four toes? Any claw marks above the toes? Simple questions that often have clear answers. If it’s “yes” to both four toes and claw marks, then you are looking at a wild dog track. Narrow, long and with clear detail means coyote tracks. Red fox tracks are small and usually lack detail due to the amount of fur they have surrounding their toe and heel pads. There is no shortage of coyote trails on the marsh (and just about everywhere on the peninsula) after each snow. They are a presence you can count on.

Bobcat track

Four toes but no claws? Is the track “rounder” in shape when compared to a coyote’s? Most likely a feline track. Bobcats and other cats have retractable claws and thusly do not show claw marks in their tracks. Small cat tracks may be from a local cat on the prowl, but large cat tracks and trails are sure sign of local bobcats. In the marsh they hunt on the ice—stealthily weaving through cattails close to the shoreline in search of an unlucky rodent. Follow the bobcat trail into the woods you’ll likely see they like to hop up onto hung-up logs. Is it for a better view or possibly to scare a snowshoe hare that might be hiding in the space underneath the log? Or both? In general, bobcats do whatever they want to do for whatever reason they choose.

Bounding trail

A bounding trail is made from a walk or run of “leaping strides”. Animals that bound will jump forward with front legs outstretched. As they move, their back feet will land pretty much where their front feet had been, leaving a trail that looks as if the animal leapt from one set of tracks to the other. Weasels are bounders, moving in an undulating flow that can look awkward but appears to work for them. On the marsh a local mink leaves a bounding trail through the cat tails after most snows, while bounding fisher trails are found throughout the woods surrounding the wetlands. Fishers are known to avoid water if possible, even the frozen style.

If your bounding trail is large and has belly slides mixed in you are tracking a river otter, “everyone’s favorite weasel.” Otter trails may be short and sweet–a quick bound between ice-holes or a visit to a latrine. Or they can be long and meandering as an otter goes across land to the next water and food source. Finding a river otter trail often results in smiles.

These are some of the main winter attractions on the marsh, and no visit is complete without finding their tracks and trails. Its usually not too hard once you start looking. In fact, its often harder to stop once you begin to follow!

Get to know your neighbors! Track your neighborhood wildlife! There is so much of it in St. George.

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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Phyllis Wyeth: She made a farsighted idea come true for hundreds of St. George youth

Phyllis Mills Wyeth died this past January 14 at her home in Chadds Ford, Pa., with her husband Jamie by her side. Obituaries published following her death rightly celebrated her as a philanthropist who generously supported the arts and environmental causes and who advocated for the rights of handicapped and disabled people. But for the community of St. George, where she was a seasonal resident, Wyeth’s most memorable and honored contribution will be her very concrete impact on the lives of our youth through Herring Gut Learning Center.

Founded by Wyeth in 1997 as Marshall Point Sea Farm, Herring Gut embodies Wyeth’s conviction that a fishing community in today’s world will not survive the effects of changing conditions unless its youth become knowledgeable about, and well-grounded in, the technologies, science and economics of aquaculture. Coincidentally, she realized some important truths about education.

In the beginning, the kind of educational program Wyeth sought for St. George students was termed “alternative education,” something reserved for students at risk of failing academically. Jim Masterson, the original director of the St. George Alternative Education program worked closely with Wyeth on developing the Herring Gut model. “In the years I knew Phyllis she tried her best to truly provide a wonderful experiential education to those ‘at-risk’ students,” Masterson says, adding parenthetically, “Of course Phyllis was Phyllis—strong-willed and mischievous with a good sense of humor—you definitely didn’t get in her way or talk her out of much. She was a hoot.”

Over the years, as the Herring Gut project’s curricula and reach expanded, it and other programs like it began to shift educators’ thinking even more profoundly. “Phyllis Wyeth believed that all students can learn, that students learn best by doing, and that place and community should ground, shape, and inspire curriculum,” says Mike Felton, the superintendent of the St. George School. “Ms. Wyeth’s vision shaped Herring Gut Learning Center and forced educators to rethink how we approach teaching and learning. Rather than ask students to conform to a traditional classroom and curriculum, change the classroom and curriculum to engage, challenge, and inspire students. Let learning take root in the community’s shore and soil, its history and traditions. Let students work with their hands, build and create, take responsibility for their learning and share that learning with the community.”

Jaden Petersdorf, from 2013 to 2016 a student in the St. George alternative education program, is only one of many former Herring Gut students who continue to value their involvement at Herring Gut. “I was lucky to be able to go to Herring Gut,” he says today. But as Peter Harris, the chair of Herring Gut’s Board of Trustees notes, Wyeth wanted Herring Gut to be more than a lucky opportunity. “Phyllis was a true visionary. She didn’t just have a farsighted idea, she made it come true for hundreds of kids here. I loved watching how excited she was when a 7th or 8th grader told her what they had learned.”­—JW
(Thanks to Sonja Schmanska for her help in preparing this tribute to Phyllis Wyeth.)

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Support our band—the Kanicki legacy

Senior luncheon

In 2016, St. George School created the Carolyn Kanicki Music Fund to honor and recognize Mrs. Kanicki, who taught band to hundreds of students during her 25 years at St. George School. Mrs. Kanicki believed that all students should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and that participation in band enriches a child’s life and provides a lifelong skill. We at St. George School have made it our goal to continue this legacy.

Our alumni are encouraged to stay involved in instrumental music into high school and adulthood. Just the other day, I ran into a St. George School alumni at the grocery store. This former student told me that band is what helped her “get through middle school.” She became a gifted flute player, participating in the Georges Valley High School Band and music festivals around the state throughout her high school years. And currently, Caleb Wight—a very enthusiastic alumnus and sophomore at Lincoln Academy—joins the Middle Level Band for rehearsals whenever he can, performs concerts with us on his tuba, and provides help and encouragement to an up-and-coming 7th grade tuba player!

The students in the St. George School Band love to share their sound and talent with the community on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, at Senior Citizen Luncheons, and in several concerts throughout the school year. On Memorial Day, the band is an integral part of the town parade and ceremony. Our trumpeters perform Taps for the wreath drop and rifle salute at the town landing and then again during the ceremony at the Kinney-Melquist American Legion Post. The band then performs the National Anthem and several patriotic pieces while our community reflects. The St. George School Band performs a similar program on Veterans Day, when several of our community’s veterans are honored in a special ceremony at the school. Every December, our 8th Grade Band is invited to the Senior Luncheon at the Town Office to dine with the Senior Citizens and then provide music, often holiday-themed, for the group. Last March, in celebration of “Music in our Schools Month,” we invited the Mid-Coast Community Band to our annual Music in our Schools Concert. As a grand finale, all musicians, ages 10 to 90, performed together an arrangement of “We Will Rock You.” What we were able to convey through this performance is that music really is a life-long experience that connects us within our school and community.

St. George School 5th graders participate in our Exploratory Band Program, which puts instruments in the hands of all 5th graders, who are taught how to play their instruments in a full band setting as well as in small group lessons. Here at St. George School, out of 87 students in grades five through eight, 74 are currently in band! With this incredible level of participation comes the challenge of making sure that all students have access to quality instruments. The expense of purchasing or renting a quality instrument ranges from $200 (second-hand) to $2,000 (brand new). Since its creation, the Carolyn Kanicki Music Fund has paid more than $3,000 in repairs and maintenance for dozens of school-owned instruments. We were also able to use the fund to purchase a quality, second-hand instrument for a student who otherwise would not be able to participate in the band.

In order to continue providing our students with the unconditional opportunity to play an instrument in the band, we would like to invite our community to contribute to the Carolyn Kanicki Music Fund. Donations can be made by sending a check, payable to “St. George School” with “Carolyn Kanicki Fund” written in the memo line to: St George School, P.O. Box 153, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860. —Kristin O’Neal, St. George School Band Instructor

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Kitchen garden talk: Favorite varieties

“Nancy” lettuce

Last issue we introduced this new column about kitchen garden topics that commonly come up when gardeners stroll among one another’s vegetable beds by asking some gardeners we know about where they get their seeds (Johnny’s and FEDCO seemed to be the hands-down favorites). At the end, we invited readers to respond to this question: Pick any vegetable(s) you plan to grow this coming season and tell us what your favorite variety is and why. Here are the responses we got:

George Tripp, Hart’s Neck: Enjoyed the kitchen garden talk article. One of our favorites is the “Fortex” pole bean from Johnny’s. Unfortunately, we may be giving up gardening due to the problem we have with deer. They have cleaned us out two years in a row. Perhaps an article on deer prevention would be helpful?

Chris Bly, Turkey Cove: When it comes to nasturtiums… they’re all lovely! But I highly recommend “MilkMaid,” a creamy slightly yellowish white bloom, and very prolific with at least half sun and ample water. I had really good luck growing them both in a large pot and in the ground as well.

I have also had great success growing “Ailsa Craig” onions. They grow to softball size if pampered with ample water and occasional fertilizer. But starting them from seed in February in a sunny window is the main key to success OR buying seedlings (not sets) if you can find them.

Fresh sweet lettuce is very popular and my all time favorite is “Nancy.” It’s a lightish green butter that will grow very large with a very sweet and tender heart. It really likes water, especially when young.

Anne Cox, Martinsville: I love the “Masai” haricot verts (skinny green beans). They are a bush bean, very productive and deliciously tender. One year I couldn’t get the seed and tried “Provider” instead. Good, but I returned to Masai as soon as I could.

Last year our neighbor, Fiona, asked if we grew “Marfax” dry beans, rumored to make the best baked beans. So I did, and will continue to grow and dry Marfax.

As for lettuce, there is nothing like “Nancy,” a lovely bright green butterhead. For a couple of years, there was a seed crop failure from the suppliers; fortunately, we are back in business again this year. Last year I also grew “Antonet,” a red lollo and “Ilema,” a green lollo, and will again. These frilly Italian lettuces were tasty, with a nice texture.
I couldn’t get the “Mellow Star” shishito pepper seed last year, but have it this year. Very productive, thin-skinned sweet peppers. Perfect for grilling.

There are so many favorites. “Silver Slicer” cucumber, a white slicing cucumber is delicious.

I used to grow “Ailsa Craig” onions, and they were huge, sweet onions—had one close to the size of a bowling ball I think (it was a good onion year). Instead, I now grow “Walla Walla” onions for sweet summer onions. The rest of my onions are good storage onions, but it is definitely worth having one particularly sweet one in the harvest.

And if I grew only one tomato, I think it would be “Aunt Ruby’s German Green.” Yum.

Next issue: What works best for deer prevention? (Thanks, George!). Send your replies to, or to Julie, St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860.

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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