Category Archives: Feb 12

An award-winning—and lifelong—focus on kids’ well-being

L-R: Adrienne Gallant, Let’s Go! Knox County Coordinator, and Dawn Gauthier and Beth Vanorse of Ponderosa Playland

L-R: Adrienne Gallant, Let’s Go! Knox County Coordinator, and Dawn Gauthier and Beth Vanorse of Ponderosa Playland

For many folks, a birthday celebrated without cake is hard to imagine. But for Dawn Gauthier, director and owner of Ponderosa Playland, the only in-home child daycare facility located in St. George, birthdays and cake lost their inevitable association more than two years ago. That’s when she learned about the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 program at a food education program held at the Penquis center in Rockland. The program involves a discipline of daily providing children with at least five fruits or vegetables, two hours or less of screen time, one hour of active play and zero sugary drinks.

Gauthier is the first winner of Let’s Go! Knox County’s Redy Award, which honors “outstanding commitment, leadership and innovation” to the 5-2-1-0 program. “We don’t provide sugary treats ever,” Gauthier states bluntly, noting that she supplies her charges with a breakfast snack, lunch and afternoon snack five days a week. “It’s really not hard to do healthy celebrations or to feed kids healthy food daily.”

Gauthier has been focused on the well-being of the children in her care since high school. “I love kids! I think it began when my sister was born. She’s 15 years younger and I enjoyed being one of her caregivers. During high school I also worked for a daycare center.”

Twenty eight years later she’s still providing daycare services for children as young as four months and as old as 10. Eighteen years ago, when her second son was born, she began providing daycare in her home. “It was the easiest way to raise a family and keep working,” she explains.

Another reason an in-home daycare operation made sense was the home’s location. “I grew up in South Portland, but my grandparents lived here on 100 acres of land called the Ponderosa. I spent all my spare time here and in 1996 was able to put in this house across the drive from my grandparents. It’s a perfect location for childcare—we’re a good distance off the main (Wallston) road, which means we don’t have to be fenced in. Our kids have lots of places to explore.” She cites a frog pond and a field across from the house which is great for flying kites in summer or sledding in winter.

Gauthier gets valuable help in running her daycare center from teacher Beth Vanorse, who has a degree in early childhood education. In addition to basic caregiving tasks, the two carry out a pre-school education program each day. “I love being involved in each child’s early development,” Gauthier says.

Gauthier admits that as much as she enjoys her work, “no one chooses daycare because it’s easy. Five days a week working with kids all day is tough.” There are also the requirements that go along with maintaining her license to operate—these involve continuing education, trainings and meeting the state’s health and safety standards. The benefits of such requirements for the children, however, are enormous. Learning of the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 program is a case in point.

Dawn Gauthier and Playland pre-schooler Will

Dawn Gauthier and Playland pre-schooler Will

“It’s just about awareness,” Gauthier says. The day she learned about the program at Penquis she stopped serving juice and began encouraging the children in her care to drink more water. “We spend a lot of time looking for healthy food choices. And we try to be as creative as we can about indoor active play when the temperature outside is below 20 degrees, preventing us from being able to take the kids outside.” Dance parties, yoga and having the children leap from activity mat to activity mat are some of the solutions Gauthier and Vanorse have devised for this winter problem. They also get useful ideas from Mailbox Magazine, a publication for teachers.

Gauthier says she’s pleased to have received the Redy Award for her participation in the Let’s Go! program, but notes that “We’re not doing it for the recognition. It’s just the right thing to do.” —JW

Let’s Go! is a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program that reaches children and families where they live, learn, work and play. Let’s Go! is committed to changing environments and policies at childcare sites, schools, out-of-school programs, healthcare practices, workplaces and communities. The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center and collaboration across health systems and community health coalitions contribute to the program’s success in Maine. Contact Adrienne Gallant at 207-921-8951 to learn more about Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0.

PHOTOS: Top, Pen Bay Healthcare; bottom, Julie Wortman

Rector: ‘Graying of Maine’ a big problem

Chris Rector

Chris Rector

At the January 13 meeting of the St. George Business Alliance (SGBA), small business owner and former Maine state senator Chris Rector, who now serves as one of seven regional representatives for Senator Angus King, told the group’s members that how Maine addresses workforce development will be a key factor in whether the state thrives economically.

“The biggest challenge is the demographics,” he said. “We need younger workers, we need immigrants. Businesses considering moving to Maine look at our workforce and say, ‘Who will be available to work for us in 10 or 15 years?’ The graying of Maine is a big problem.”

Karen Brace of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce (of which the SGBA is now a member) seconded Rector’s comment, noting that a related issue frequently brought up by the Chamber’s members is the need for more housing that a younger workforce can afford.

Rector said his job is to be King’s “eyes and ears” in this region. “I regard spending time with a group like yours as an opportunity to open lines of communication.” In many ways, he said, a peninsula like St. George is like an island. “Each peninsula has its own characteristics of culture,” stressing the importance of recognizing such distinctions.

Although Rector spends much of his time traveling his assigned region, he has an office in Augusta at 4 Gabriel Drive and can be reached at 622-8292 or Chris_Rector@king.senate.gov.

The January SGBA meeting took place at The Point restaurant in Tenants Harbor, owned by owner/chef Jessica Beal. —JW

PHOTO: Diane Hall

Gill wins St. George School geography bee

Runner-up Anna Kingsbury, left, and winner Allison Gill with Mr. McPhail

Runner-up Anna Kingsbury, left, and winner Allison Gill with Mr. McPhail

Recently, at St. George School, we had a geography bee. The winner was 5th grade student Allison Gill and the runner-up was 5th grade student Anna Kingsbury.

The geography bee is for students in grades 4-8. The way you get into the school’s geography bee is that each grade has a classroom bee, and the two winners from each grade go to the school geography bee. Sometimes there is a tie so there may be more, but it’s usually 10-12 contestants in the final bee, which is held in the gym in front of the public. Geography teacher Mr. McPhail is the Bee Master.

This year, the winners of the classroom bees were: from 4th grade—Jack Elwell and Gregory Murry; from 5th grade—Anna Kingsbury, Audrey Leavitt and Alison Gill; from 6th grade—Sam Miller and Ethan Carballo; from 7th grade—Greta Carlson and Connor Adams; and from 8th grade, (Alt. Ed.), Lucien Marriner.

We asked Mr. McPhail, our social studies teacher and the master of the classroom and school bees, what the school’s highest achievements were in the state bee. He said, “Our highest placement was fourth in the state. We’ve had at least 10 qualify for the state bee. The state bee questions are very difficult!”

Good luck to Allison Gill, who will now take a test to see if she qualifies for the state bee.

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

PHOTO: Alison England

Winter sports in St. George

boysbballSMAt St. George School, the town’s recreation department offers basketball for grades K-6, adult basketball, and skiing for all ages. According to Mr. Vail, the town’s Recreation Director, community members volunteer to supervise adult basketball, coach and referee basketball for young people and keep the book and clock at games. We also have volunteers who are in charge of tickets at the Camden Snow Bowl.

K-2 basketball runs for four Saturdays in January. They generally have 20 boys and girls attend each week. Grade 3-4 basketball runs from December to the first of February. They play in a league with Thomaston and Cushing. This year we had 11 boys and 12 girls.

In addition to what the town recreation league offers, we have school teams for the older kids. We have one girls’ 7th grade basketball team, and one boys’ 7th grade team. The coach for the girls’ team was Brittany Anthony, and the coach for the boys team was Dave Banda. Karizma Chickering, Sadie Davis, Josie Mathiau, and Chloe Simmons were the four players from St. George on the girls’ team, and the rest were from Thomaston. Hunter Hoppe, Jake Paulsen, Drew Minery, Aaron Benner, Cameron Kingsbury, Jonah Carlson, and Hunter Yattaw were the players from St. George on the boys’ team, and the rest were from Thomaston.

The boys had 6 wins and 6 losses in the regular season, and 1 win and 1 loss in playoffs. The girls had 3 wins, and 9 losses in the regular season, and 1 loss in the playoffs.

The highlights of the season for the boys were that, in the first game against Camden, Drew Minery had 5 three-pointers, one to take the lead with about 10 seconds left and in a game against Rockland Hunter Hoppe was the second highest scorer. In addition, Aaron Benner scored 18 points in a game, and Cameron Kingsbury scored 27 points in a game.

According to Coach Brittany Anthony, the highlights for the girls were: “Winning against Oceanside Blue for our first win of the season! Chloe Simmons being our top scorer with 155 points, and Lindsey Brooks being top foul shooter with 63 percent at the foul line!”

For non-team sports at St. George, there is also a special “Ski-For-Free” program for St. George fourth graders happening now at the Camden Snow Bowl on Wednesdays for four weeks. It is for all fourth graders in Knox County. It’s free! They can learn to ski or snowboard. They had their first trip up there on February 4 and it was a great success. We’ve also had Learn-to-Skate opportunities at the Mid-Coast Recreation Center in Rockport, and we hope to have many more individual and group winter activities at St. George School in the future.

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

PHOTO: Shasta Minery

Winter’s a good time to imagine—and plan for—butterflies

A Monarch caterpillar dining on Milkweed

A Monarch caterpillar dining on Milkweed

During this time of deep winter and deep snow I have been thinking about butterflies and how to attract them to my gardens. What a delight to imagine those colorful denizens of the garden when all is white and grey and cold outside. Just reading though a list of butterflies likely to show up in Maine is a fun fantasy: Rear Admirals, Monarchs, Painted Fritillaries, Spread-Wing Skippers, Eastern Commas, Painted Ladies, American Snouts, Viceroys. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by some of these visitors?

A Viceroy, for instance, according to those who delight in researching and studying these creatures, prefers willows and poplars as hosts, and feeds on the nectar of some of the later season flowers such as Asters, Goldenrod, Joe Pye Weed, and Canadian Thistle. There’s your plant list in a nutshell! Really, it’s a list of what abounds in the fields and woodland edges all around us. The list also points out that attracting butterflies is more complex than just planting a few plants that they like for nectar here and there. The larger issue is one of habitat, of assuring that there are plenty of fields and woodlands, large tracts of marshy areas and wild places, clean and unpolluted. That is probably the best thing we can do to attract butterflies.

But what about doing something around the house and in the garden to entice some of these visitors in from the wild fields? There are some great lists out there of which plants that specific butterflies prefer as nectar and which plants they choose as hosts, that is, which plants they like to lay their eggs on so that the emerging caterpillar will have an immediate source of food.

Nectar plants, for example, are easy. We already have many of them in our gardens, and likely if a butterfly doesn’t care for a flower, a bee or other pollinator will.  Many of the nectar plants have compound flowers, which are flowers made up of clusters of smaller florets into which these insects can fit their little proboscis (feeding straw). Some favorites are Joe Pye Weed, Milkweed, Butterfly Bush, Queen Anne’s Lace, Dill, Fennel and Oregano. Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra) is a late-season blooming shrub that is usually alive with Fritillaries. One thing I did learn researching this topic is that butterflies have fairly poor eyesight, so planting large masses of the same flower, rather than singly or interspersing types of plants, helps attract them.

Providing host plants, I think, is more difficult for most of us because the nature of being a host is that emerging caterpillars will nibble on leaves and stems, leaving things a bit ragged. A Monarch caterpillar, for instance, will strip a member of the Milkweed family bare. The trade-off is a lovely striped caterpillar that will become one of the endangered Monarchs headed from Maine to Mexico for the winter.

So despite the snow I’m thinking of spring, with visions of Fritillaires, Viceroys and Monarchs filling my head. And I’m making plans. With any luck, filling my gardens this coming season with the nectar and host plants I know these colorful and intriguing insects prefer will add a delightful dimension to my gardens—and make at least a small contribution to helping these helpful pollinators survive and thrive.

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

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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. Patty Kahn identified the gnarly tree next to the Ocean View Grange in the January 15  issue of The Dragon.

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Dragon Eats: Corned Beef

corned beefMy late husband, Geo, was very fond of a good slab of corned beef. An adventurous cook, he enjoyed making anything from scratch. Years ago, he ran across instructions in a newspaper for corning beef and immediately adapted the recipe. The beef stays submerged in the brine for many days, and needs to be “agitated” daily. He kept the brine pot in his beer refrigerator and made it a point to give it a poke every time he got a beer. Thus, it was “agitated” quite often. —BTW

The brining of it
7 quarts water
3 C kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, smashed
20 peppercorns
20 cloves
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
6-9 lbs brisket, top or bottom round.
(Several small briskets can be brined together.)

In a large stockpot or lobster pot, stir seasonings into the water until the salt dissolves. Add the beef, cover and refrigerate pot for 7-10 days, stirring daily.

The cooking of it
Rinse the beef well, place in a clean pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, and simmer about 15 minutes.

Remove beef, drain pot and add beef and fresh water to cover generously. Add:

1 medium onion, sliced
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
10-15 peppercorns

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 – 3 hours, until meat is tender (depending on size).

Note: Geo liked his corned beef with lots of flavor. He omitted the first simmer, and simply rinsed the beef and cooked it as directed.

Extra brined briskets can be frozen for later use.