Category Archives: Volume 5

It’s Christmas Fair time at a Grange that has become an important community center

Carol Paulsen

This year, on the morning of Saturday, December 2, Carol Paulsen will arrive at the Grange Hall in Wiley’s Corner by 7am “to get the coffee pot going.” She’ll bring two double batches of cinnamon buns—six dozen—that she’ll have mixed up earlier that morning and will set them out to rise. Then she’ll start making the muffins that will later be for sale on the food table. Her cinnamon buns will be fresh out of the oven when the Grange’s annual Christmas Fair opens at 9am.

It’s a routine Paulsen has followed for many years. As the busy day hums into high gear, she will be joined by other Grange volunteers, each tending to their own set of tasks.

“We have a good crew—everyone pitches right in and helps,” Paulsen says. “We have a good time doing it and I won’t say there’s anybody is the boss of it, everyone just pitches right in and does what they see needs to be done.”

Paulsen, now a grandmother of adult children, grew up across the road from the Grange Hall and has been a Grange member since she was 14 years old. “There was nothing else to do in those days and we could walk across the road to the weekly Grange meetings, which I remember seemed quite long. But afterward the grownups would go downstairs and have coffee and we kids would stay upstairs with a record player and dance. All the kids in the neighborhood would join once they turned 14 for that reason.”

The Christmas Fair is one of two major annual fundraisers for this Grange (a harvest fair occurs in October). Twelve tables are available for rent by people who have things to sell—lots of handmades along with a variety of collectibles. Paulsen and the other kitchen volunteers are hard at it all day: first, supplying soup, biscuits and hot dogs for lunch and then after about 3pm, when most of the fairgoers have left, preparing dishes for the Grange supper that begins at 5pm, to which other Grange members will also bring dishes to share.

In recent years the money generated by the Christmas Fair has gone into an extensive program of repairs and renovations to the Grange Hall itself. “We’ve raised all the money to fix up the Grange Hall by having our monthly suppers and having our fairs,” Paulsen says with a note of pride. Building rental fees have also provided income.

With the Grange Hall now in good physical condition—and with the programmatic shift away from the Grange’s historic focus on farming that has occurred over the past several decades—the Grange’s members have begun turning their attention outward to other community needs. In this regard, Tammy Willey, who in addition to serving on the St. George Select Board is both secretary and treasurer of the Wiley’s Corner Grange, points out the organization’s recent decision to create a fund that the teachers at the St. George School can use to purchase materials for use in their classrooms rather than paying for these supplies out of their own pockets. “The community has supported the Grange as we made upgrades at the Grange Hall, so we thought now it is time to give back to this great town. The Grange sends money to the state Grange to support the Howes Nursing Scholarship and to support junior Granges, but we decided the teachers at our school also need support.”

Another recent community-minded Grange project has been the Window Dressers Community Build. Grange member Barbara Anderson, who began volunteering for Window Dressers in 2012, has been a driving force behind getting the Grange involved in this non-profit program aimed at providing energy-saving window inserts to participants at no cost except a voluntary donation and some volunteer hours if possible. The frames for St. George were built at the central production facility on the ground floor of Lincoln Street Center in Rockland and then transported to the Wiley’s Corner Grange where volunteers did the taping, wrapping and finishing work.

“We had 176 inserts to build for about 15 homes and for the vestry area of the First Baptist Church, which is where they hold services for the smaller congregation all winter,” Anderson says. “We started measuring windows in June, when we first had only about five orders. As word spread, we took on more and more requests including a few from Thomaston and Owls Head, but most of our customers for this build are from the St. George peninsula.”

Anderson adds a personal observation about the good the Window Dressers project brought to St. George. “My impression is that those who volunteer generally have a good time, feel rewarded by all they produce and definitely appreciate the ‘community’ provided by a community build. I saw new friendships develop and old acquaintances re-acquainted.”

Tammy Willey working on the Window Dressers project

Willey agrees that the relationships people develop are one of the most important reasons the Grange continues to be a healthy organization. She recounts her own experience by way of proof. “I got interested back during the St. George Bicentennial because we were selling T-shirts and throws and I got talking to the ladies up here. I remember sitting next to Cindy Montgomery, who has since passed away, and talking about the Grange and what they do and then I started coming to the meetings to see what was going on. I think it was the people who drew me in the most because everybody was so friendly and community-oriented.” After a pause she adds, “Yes, that’s what attracted me to the Grange, the people.”

Paulsen sums it up succinctly. “It’s a good building to have in the neighborhood—[these days] it’s a better community thing than a Grange thing.”—JW

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

History of the Grange

December 4th of this year will be the 150th anniversary of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, commonly known as the Grange.  Born out of the interest following the Civil War to assist in the rebuilding of the Southern farms, it is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope.

Oliver Kelley was an employee of the federal Department of Agriculture and was sent to the southern states to review the post-war situation.  Being a federal employee, especially from the North, his presence was not well received.  However, he gained favor with Southerners who shared his membership as a Freemason.  Southern Masons provided him with the contacts as he toured the war-torn South and was shocked by the outdated farming practices. He saw the need for an organization that would bring people from the North and South together in a spirit of mutual cooperation and, after consultations with other interested parties, the Grange came into being.

In its early years, the Grange was devoted to educational events and social gatherings. The organization was unusual for its time because women and any teen old enough to “draw a plow” were encouraged to join. The importance of women in the organization was reinforced by requirements that four of the elected positions within a locally chartered grange could be held only by women.

The Grange has always focused on policies, not partisan politics.  One of its specific objectives states, “We shall earnestly endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry and all selfish ambition.”  Some of the policy changes they championed were lower rates charged by the railroads and the beginning of rural free mail delivery by the Post Office.  The Grange also endorsed the Temperance movement and women’s suffrage.

When the Grange first began it borrowed some of its rituals and symbols from Freemasonry.  It also borrowed from Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible. Small, ceremonial farm tools are often displayed at Grange meetings. There are seven degrees of Grange membership—the ceremony of each degree relating to the seasons and various symbols and principles.

The first Grange in town was the St. George Grange at Wiley’s Corner, founded in 1903.  The Ocean View Grange in Martinsville followed in February of 1906.

 —John Falla

Berries birds like in winter

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Winterberry

Start with some wind, add a little rain and then cool down the temperature a bit. Mix all this up in November and what do you get? Canopies that were once robustly covered with green leaves start to peel apart. Leaves suddenly (or not so suddenly) drop from their perches, falling and dancing their way to cover lawns and inspire raking sessions. Obstructed views open almost overnight, and in some places worlds of nutrition and sustenance, previously sheltered, are exposed as fruits, seeds, and nuts are in clear view for wildlife of all kinds. Yes, this is a wonderful time of the year.

Cruising the roads of St. George these days it’s hard not to notice leafless shrubs covered in red berries. And while there are several species of shrubs with red berries, the luscious fruits of the deciduous winterberry (Ilex verticillate) seem to dominate the roadsides. A member of the holly family (Aquifoliaceae), winterberry branches can be covered with berries which will remain on plants well into winter. This trait gives the species its common name.

Cedar Waxwing

Medium to large sized song birds such as waxwings and thrushes (Hermit, Swainsons and American Robin predominantly) can converge on a winterberry thicket and pick it as clean as their gizzards will let them. Mimic thrushes (Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Grey Catbird) defend individual shrubs from other birds and mammals, claiming the fruit to be for their bills only. In fact, just the other day I was accosted by a Grey Catbird who didn’t like strangers getting too close to its claimed winterberry shrub. I bet that catbird stays north until those berries run out. It didn’t seem like it was going to give up that tasty food anytime soon.

Another berry some birds like is the good ole bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica) from the wax myrtle family (Myricaeae). A small shrub with waxy leaves, bayberry grows groups of black berries in globular clusters. The berries have a white wax covering that results in a grayish appearance for the berries.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The wax covering of bayberries prevents most songbirds from accessing the fruit or obtaining any nutrition from eating them, but  bayberries are highly attractive to one of my favorite songbirds—the Yellow-rumped Warbler (aka Myrtle Warbler or also lovingly known as “butterbutts”).  Yellow-rumpeds are unique in the warbler world for producing an enzyme that allows them to digest wax and thus as a species they view bayberry as an extremely valuable food source. With limited competition for the berries, butterbutts are known to overwinter along the coast of Maine years when bayberry fruits are bountiful. They regularly overwinter further north than other warblers in North America largely because of their connection to bayberry.

Both bayberry and winterberry are native to Maine and are recommended for yard landscaping to encourage observable wildlife by providing animals with food and habitat. Regardless of whether it’s in your yard, along a road, or in the woods—late fall is an exciting time to keep your eyes on those winterberry and bayberry shrubs, and on what songbirds and animals might be eating them! Enjoy!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

‘A shopping day’ that is about supporting all a community has to offer

Fourteen years ago, when Anne Klapfish gathered a small group of people together to talk about the possibility of collaborating on an “old fashioned Christmas fair” on Thanksgiving weekend here in St. George, her main goal was to provide local seasonal retailers like herself with an opportunity to end the business year on a high note. In this respect, the idea—which the group called “Yuletide in St. George”—was not that different from the “Black Friday” concept used at shopping malls and in downtown shopping districts.

But as Yuletide became an annual event that grew to include a whole “trail” of venues winding through the town, it became apparent that there was also something different about Yuletide in St. George—and something much, much better than any kickoff to the holiday shopping season that a mall or big-town chamber of commerce had to offer. It was a difference, Klapfish thinks, that had to do with the St. George community’s growing involvement in the weekend.

“Yes, it’s a shopping day,” Klapfish acknowledges, noting that the St. George Business Alliance is now involved as a sponsor, “but it seems to me that over the years it’s become a time when in this community everybody just comes together in a spirit of conviviality and respect. People come for all the right reasons—to be part of a community and to support all aspects of what this community has to offer.”

This can be seen in the list of the event’s venues which today range not only from established, locally owned and operated retail shops like Klapfish’s Stonefish boutique, The Blue Tulip, and Mars Hall Gallery, but also to non-profit fundraising and service organizations like the Ocean View Grange, the Eastern Star, and the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. So in stopping at the locations marked on the Yuletide map, participants can support in equal measure both local commerce and local causes. “People share the wealth from venue to venue to venue,” Klapfish points out.

Klapfish says she also particularly likes that the Madison Avenue-driven hype present at most shopping malls is absent from the St. George Yuletide event. “The things that are promoted most during Yuletide are the things that people here in St. George have made, whether the food they offer or their crafts and art,” she stresses, adding, “and you know you will run into people you know. People are in a good mood, there’s camaraderie. It’s a way to step into a holiday event at a scale and intimacy you don’t find elsewhere.”

Yuletide in St. George runs the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend from 10-4. Some venues are open only a single day and some hours vary, so check the Yuletide map for details.
—JW

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

Bless the rains and Shaggy Manes

Nature Bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the ability to grow a shaggy mane on their head, some settle for shaggy chins (and those wear their shagginess with pride!). There are shaggy manes that we all can enjoy though, and of course I am talking about Shaggy Mane mushrooms. But enjoy them while you can, they get along fast!

Shaggy Manes are one of the few mushrooms that can “magically” appear overnight after a rain (most mushrooms take a few days or longer). On October 25th St. George received about two inches of rain, and after a generally dry summer and mostly dry fall the water was welcomed whole heartily. On October 26th (the next day) Shaggy Mane mushrooms erupted in several lawns in St George and the responses I heard were mixed.

“Get them out of here,” “I’m not touching them,” “What are those?”and “I just keep running over them with my lawn mower” kinda sums up the energy of one camp of Shaggy Mane observers. And who can blame them–“Those things weren’t there yesterday, I swear!” Shaggy Manes can erupt and take over a yard seemingly moments after the rain slows down and it’s hard to miss them when they do turn up.

Shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus), also known as “Lawyer’s wigs” in some small fungal circles, have cylindrical, white missile-like caps covered with white/brown scales that give the mushrooms an attractive “shaggy” appearance (as opposed to a “Scooby” appearance which is something totally different). They stand up to one foot and may erupt in impressive numbers—like 100s to 1000s–in yards and wood chip piles. Shaggies will grow for a day or two and then undergo an extreme metamorphosis.

The bottom edge of the cap turns into a black, inky like liquid. Over the next day or so the entire cap liquifies, or deliquesces, from the bottom up only leaving a thin stalk surrounded and/or covered by a black blob of goo. They go from attractive to somewhat disturbing in a matter of days. Sounds appetizing, no?

This deliquescing is the typical spore dispersal strategy for Inky Cap mushrooms (family Coprinaceae, genus Coprinus). Within its cap, Shaggy Mane gills grow close to each other like pages in a book. So close that “regular” gravity-released spore dispersal would result in most spores being stuck between gills. Instead, as the spores along the margin of a Shaggy Mane cap mature, enzymes are released to dissolve the edge of the cap. This autodigestion causes the cap border to spread, crack and peel up. In the process, the gills are separated and spores are released into the air without concern of becoming stuck between gills. Spores be free!

This dispersal method works well for Shaggy Manes as they are found in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In the Americas Shags grow from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, at sea level to over 10,000 ft. Those shaggy spores really disperse!

The local, excited camp of shaggy mane observers came up with “I saw some at the transfer station!” and “There are hundreds of white mushrooms in a yard on 131. You gotta see them!” These are the fungophiles who know that while not only being attractive and repulsive, shaggy manes are downright yummy! Pick them before they deliquesce, then steam ‘em or cook with eggs (“shags and eggs” is a well-loved treat in the Palmer-Gentalen household) and feast!

“So, what are they doing here?” my neighbor John asked me as we looked at the pair of shaggy manes in his yard. “They are decomposing something,” I replied. Apparently, there had been a wood pile not too long ago right where Shags were growing. Birch chips and wood shrapnel were left there and were now being processed by these shags. Shaggy manes fit in with the classic fungus niche of decomposer, the art of turning things back into soil. Attractive, yummy and a decomposer—Shaggy Manes have got it all! How are Shaggy Manes not the state mushroom of Maine?

By October 29th all that was left of the Shaggy Manes I was watching were stalks and goo. A four-day whirlwind lesson on Shaggy Mane populations and dispersal. Just when you think mushroom season is done and gone, Shags state their presence with authority. I appreciate them even more now. See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

A ‘challenge by choice’ experience

By Laura Olds and Sophia Vigue

From October 16th to the 20th, the 8th grade students from St. George School attended a class trip to The Leadership School at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro. The Leadership School is all about “challenge by choice.” The staff there encourage kids to do things they may not do in their everyday lives. They also taught us a lot about being good leaders and peers.

Our days there were very full and we spent our time doing fun things. We did a lot of group challenges and activities for team building. We had a teacher who worked with us during the day throughout the entire week. He guided us through different team exercises, and the meanings behind them. We learned a lot about communication, collaboration, and decision-making.

There was an indoor climbing wall as well as an outdoor ropes course offered. Many students faced their fear of heights, and almost everyone did at least one climb over the week. A lot of people’s favorite part about Camp Kieve was the climbing. (The three meals and snacks we got every day were also a class favorite.) Our St. George teachers took turns being there with us for the days and overnight.

There were other schools there as well. Most classes were middle-level students, but there were a few younger grades. During the afternoon and evening there were choice activities offered to all the students, like climbing, different outdoor sports, fishing, and arts and crafts. We also did an egg drop competition, played a fun game called “Escape The Freedom,” and did a talent show where we performed a skit or dance with the students in our cabin.

“I liked the fun memories that were created,” Audrey Leavitt stated.

Liam O’Neal reminisced, “It was a great place with great food.”

“I liked it because it had a lot of challenges,” observed Sophia Mathieson.

“My favorite part was that the whole class got to hang out together,” Anna Kingsbury added.

Going to Camp Kieve was an amazing experience for our class. It was great, as this is our last year in school together. This was a way we could spend more time with each other and become closer as a whole and realize what it means to be leaders at our school. We would like to thank the staff, board members and community of St. George for providing this opportunity for us.

Olds and Vigue are 8th grade students at St. George School.

PHOTOS: St. George School staff

An annual shopping trip that is about much more than a free ride

During the 11 years that St. George native Cherie Yattaw has worked at the St. George Town Office she has worn a number of different hats—most notably assessing clerk, planning board secretary and now office manager. But the one she enjoys wearing most is the one she will be donning this coming Friday, November 10 when she accompanies those signed up for the annual senior shopping trip on the bus to Portland.

“Sometimes I wear a stocking cap or reindeer ears—one year I wore snowflakes and snowflake glasses,” she admits. “Everyone looks forward to the trip and I look forward to it and the girls in the office look forward to it.”

The bus, which holds 50, is paid for by the town through the Parks and Recreation budget. It picks the shoppers up at the Town Office parking lot at 7am and returns to drop them off at 6pm. Christmas movies are shown both on the way down to Portland and on the way back.
“The first year I was here I didn’t go, but then the Parks and Recreation director at the time, Wayne Judkins, arranged it for the office staff to go along and so I went,” Yattaw recalls. Very  quickly she saw the potential for making the trip into something a bit more festive than just a welcome opportunity for people who have transportation needs to get to Portland for some holiday shopping.

“On that first trip I got thinking, you know, it would be nice to give everybody a little gift—just some little thing because you don’t know what everyone’s situation is and sometimes it’s just fun to have a secret Santa, too. So the following year, it was in September that I started and I wrote letters and then I made phone calls to places like Hannaford and Shaws and Walmart.  And all the banks got letters and calls, too. And they all were so giving. They gave recycle bags, pens, paper, calendars, pencils—I got a wide variety of things. And then I made something for each of the shoppers, like one year I made them potholders, another year I made them scarves and last year I made them all teddy bears.”

A few days before the trip Yattaw brings everything she has gathered and then the office staff gets together and fills up gift bags, which will be handed out at the end of the trip. “Even the bus driver gets a bag,” Yattaw says. “And I also make special holiday pins—sometimes with beads, sometimes with things like snowmen. A couple of the ladies who go on the trip wear all the pins they’ve received each year right across their chests. And the last couple of years we’ve handed out necklaces made of flashing holiday lights, which were a big hit.”

The itinerary begins with a stop for coffee or breakfast at the McDonald’s in Brunswick. “It’s Veterans’ Day, so we see lots of Veterans there,” Yattaw notes. “We give them the holiday pins I’ve made for the trip and talk to them and hug them and thank them for their service.” After a pause she adds, “I love our country, I love our town—it just makes you feel so proud to see the veterans  and to know they are proud of what they’ve done for us.”

Next the bus heads for the Christmas Tree Shop. “That’s the highlight! We’re there for about an hour-and-a-half to two hours—it takes quite a while to get through there with 50 people. Then we go to the Maine Mall for lunch where a place called the Country Buffet is very popular with our group.”

Marden’s is the next stop after the Maine Mall. “A lot of the ladies really like that because they can get some good buys there for quilting needs—a lot of them belong to the Grange, so this is a chance for them to get out and get materials so they can make things for the craft shows.”
Target is usually the final shopping stop of the day. “The bus is full when we get back to St. George, both in the baggage compartments below and in the main cabin.”

Yattaw, who unabashedly admits that she is “a hugger,” acknowledges that this annual senior shopping trip is something she especially loves doing. “I love making things and I just like to see people smile and be happy. Going down to Portland it is very chatty on the bus. This is a chance for people to reconnect with one another, a chance for fellowship. And it’s nice not to have to worry about anything for the day. It’s just a time to be together.”

There is still time for seniors to sign up for this year’s shopping trip to Portland. Contact the Town Office at 372-6363.—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman