Category Archives: May 10

‘A constant flow of language’ with all the comforts of a seaside Maine inn

Julia Schulz, Patti Luchetti and Joanne O’Shea at a planning session for this year’s French Immersion at the Craignair Inn

In 2010, when Joanne O’Shea moved with her family to St. George as the new owners of the historic Craignair Inn overlooking the causeway leading to Clark Island, she was elated to find that she could get a French station on the television. The discovery rekindled a love of French language—and, within a few years, the creation of a unique annual French Immersion weekend at the inn. This year the event will take place June 1-3.

“I have a college degree in French, but I lived in Colorado and never used it—there aren’t a lot of French-speaking people there without really seeking it out. So when we moved here one thing was there was French TV, which of course was Canadian, which I couldn’t understand, but I at least knew it was French so that got French back into my mind. I just always loved French. I started taking it in 7th grade, majored in it in college and my husband and I honeymooned in Paris. Then we began having guests here at the inn who were speaking French.”

O’Shea decided to rejuvenate her by then rusty language skills by taking classes in French at the Penobscot Language School in Rockland—there she met longtime Penobscot Language School teacher Julia Schulz and Patti Luchetti, director of Shalimar’s Studio of Oriental Dance, who now plays a planning and support role for the Craignair immersions. For Schulz, who had co-founded the Penobscot Language School in 1986 in response to requests she was getting from home-schooling parents for language instruction, meeting innkeeper O’Shea opened up the possibility of pursuing a modest dream.

“I’d been doing language immersions for high-school and college students at Tanglewood and Blueberry Cove Camps for a while—French, Spanish, German. But they were big weekends, 60 students at a time staying in cabins with no electricity, no heat, and eating meals that we cooked together. These were great, but over the years I kind of wished for a smaller, more intimate, adults-only thing where you could have wine and really nice food in a beautiful place with a calm and quiet character—a setting like that creates a nice atmosphere for learning.”

Craignair Inn immersion participants last year enjoy a fun interaction—in French, of course.

Comfort, Schulz says, is the operative word. “If I were to come up with a slogan for these weekends it would be, ‘Go outside your comfort zone without giving up the comfort.’ Because it’s hard to be immersed in a foreign language day and night. Our goal is to create an atmosphere where people feel safe and relaxed and comfortable and a big part of that is the inn. The setting is so relaxing and comfortable, we get outside and do things, and the food is so good and you just feel good and comfortable there. It’s the idea of pushing yourself, but still having a really comfortable, safe space in which to do the hard work of trying to express yourself in another language and to understand what people are saying to you.”

This marks the fifth year the trio have collaborated on offering an immersion-style way for students of French to become more fluent in this foreign tongue. Groups have been as small as five and as large as 14. “The participants have been people who have studied French but who haven’t quite gotten to the level of just being able to speak it comfortably,” Schulz observes. O’Shea adds, “Julia never puts anybody on the spot, but she includes everyone. During the weekend you can’t go for more than a few minutes without having to say something in French.”

The key, O’Shea, Schulz and Luchetti agree, is to have something interesting to talk about. To that end during the weekend they highlight a particular region of France and some other French-speaking locale and also bring in special speakers. This year the featured regions will be Bordeaux and the French Caribbean. So the food served in the Craignair dining room is tied into that, as are the topics taken up by the guest speakers, who this year are Kate McAleer, founder and CEO of Rockland’s Bixby Chocolates, speaking in French about sourcing chocolate in Haiti and Crystal Robinson, a former high school French teacher who is now finishing up her studies in “agriscaping,” which involves adding edibles to landscape design.

“We’re all intelligent adults, so you want to be able to talk about your interests in this other language,” Schulz explains. “Immersion is a constant flow of language—that is, language in context, so we talk about the food we’re eating, about the weather, about whatever our guests are presenting.”

O’Shea, Schulz and Luchetti take care to pace the weekend with a variety of activities alongside opportunities for rest and outdoor recreation. “Immersion can be tiring,” Schulz admits. “People learn more and have a better time of it if they are relaxed.”—JW

For more information on this year’s June 1-3 French Immersion at the Craignair Inn go to or call 207-594-7644 or email The cost, which includes wine-tasting, meals/snacks, instruction materials, activities tax and gratuity, is $300 plus a discounted rate on lodging at the inn. Special arrangements to participate just for a day or just for a dinner and evening session can also be made. Register online by May 25.

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, below, courtesy Craignair Inn

Ice house update

When I put together my February 2018 (“Ice houses and the ice box”) on cutting ice and ice houses in St. George, there were no pictures to be found showing this activity in town. Then a few weeks later some pictures and photo albums were provided for me to review and scan, and guess what? Not one, but two pictures of local ice cutting and ice houses were in the collection!

This first picture (top) is believed to have been taken in either the 1930s or 1940s and comes from a photo album that belonged to Harry Graff, who lived on Sea Street in Tenants Harbor. The picture shows the loading of ice onto a truck to be transported to a local ice house. The picture was taken at the marsh in Tenants Harbor and is looking southeast towards the corner of the current parking area and bench. Unfortunately we have no identification of people in the picture. But if any Dragon readers can assist with this, it would be very helpful.

The second picture (below) comes from a collection of pictures that belonged to Bea Smith, who lived on Watts Avenue in Tenants Harbor. The picture shows her father, Charles Rawley, standing in the doorway of his ice house. This ice house was located on Commercial Street in Tenants Harbor, as you proceed down the hill towards what is now the public landing. This is confirmed by the fact that you can see in the background on the right-hand side a corner of the sail loft building. —John M. Falla

North Haven Community School seeks magnet students for unique high-school experience

Maine’s smallest K-12 public school, located on a Penobscot Bay island, is seeking high-school magnet students for the 2018-2019 school year.

North Haven Community School, which has a total enrollment of approximately 65 students K-12, hosted two magnet students during the 2017-2018 school year, and hopes to add more.

Magnet students are currently housed together with a “dorm parent” in a school rental home and return to their families on the weekends. Depending on the number of students participating in the program, magnet students may be housed with host families.

“We strive to offer magnet students a home-like environment in our magnet school house with caring adults responsible for our students, their logistics, meals and program,” school board chair and North Haven Community School alumna Hannah Pingree said.

North Haven Community School offers unique opportunities for hands-on learning and rigorous academics. Students can participate in wilderness expeditions, personalized research projects, whale skeleton rearticulation, carpentry, small engine repair, visual and performing arts classes and extracurriculars, 3D printing, work studies, and the Eastern Maine Skippers Program; as well as more traditional academic offerings, including AP courses.

“In a tiny school students have both the freedom to follow their own interests and passions and they receive personal attention in pursuing passions and getting extra help, when needed. Kids are required to take on leadership roles, to do public speaking, and to make presentations which are essential for the life after high-school,” Pingree said.

“The classes are small groups which makes it easier for me to learn,” said Irene Prescott, a 9th-grade magnet student at North Haven Community School.

Her mother, Sarah Gibson, agreed.

“NHCS offers a unique, hands-on, experiential learning experience. In her freshman year, we have witnessed Irene blossom in this caring and supported environment. She travels independently, joined the basketball team, and become more comfortable expressing her view and speaking in public,” she said. “We are happy to have found a school community which is a partnership: our daughter can flourish and be all she can be while contributing to help an island school flourish and be all that it can be.”

Tuition for magnet students includes room and board, and the total cost is below the state tuition amount, Pingree said. Students receive free ferry tickets.

For more information about North Haven Community School’s magnet program, visit or email Patti Sparhawk at

What makes a good story?

Gavin tells his story to Sophia

By Mila Mathiau

The 8th-grade is taking part in a story-telling expedition with members of The Telling Room. The Telling Room is a non-profit writing center located in Portland, Maine. They think that kids are natural story-tellers and their goals are: to boost confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences by giving young adults a voice. Meghan Vigeant, Willy Ulbrich, and Sarah Price from The Telling Room are helping us tell our stories. Every Monday afternoon, we meet with them and do activities to help make our stories stronger. During the rest of the week, we have classes in public speaking with Mr. McPhail; and then in Mrs. Schmanska’s English class, we analyze stories from The Moth ( to examine story elements and to define what we think makes a story worth telling.

Students do warm up exercises to loosen up before they practice speaking

On Mondays, Meghan has been teaching us how to tell a true story, how to find our own stories, how to tell what makes a good story, how to find our voice and build confidence to tell our story. She has also helped us to practice presentation skills, like good breathing, pronunciation, projecting our voice, and being confident in front of an audience. Several 8th-graders have chosen to share their stories with others outside of our class. Look for our presentation materials and recorded stories at the end-of-year Celebration of Learning on June 12.

Some learning targets we have for this expedition are: I can explain the importance of the story-telling tradition historically and globally. I can tell a personal narrative to develop real experiences and events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequence. I can use effective speaking techniques (eye conduct, volume, posture, pronunciation). At the end of our expedition, we are going to have a performance with invited guests to tell our stories in front of a live audience!

(Mathiau is a Grade 8 student at the St. George School.)

PHOTOS: Courtesy St. George School

Vernal poolin’ and the race against time!

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Leif and Reid show their finds

When we left off last column, spotted salamanders and wood frogs were braving an evening of chilly rain to make their way to freshly thawed breeding ponds lovingly referred to as vernal pools. That was around the 30th of March and the race against time was officially on!

Fast forward 30 days and we find that much has changed! For one thing, the spotted salamanders and wood frogs that we amphibi-napped (snagged on our Amphibian cruise) have put on shows in classrooms at both the St. George and Hope Elementary Schools and were a hit at the latest Cub Scout Pack meeting. They’ve been held by more than 50 kids with more kids to visit! We are big fans of hands-on education, and thank the amphibians for their patience and the students for being kind with them!

Now, take a trip outside (always a good idea) to a local vernal pool and it’s clear that much has changed. Wood frogs have mated, laid eggs and after a quick three weeks they have hatched and the tiniest of tadpoles are now free to swim and find shelter and food in their home pools. A single wood frog egg mass (from a single female) may have up to 2,000 eggs in it—so there are literally gagillions of freshly hatched wood frog tadpoles in St. George as I type. The next generation is here! Welcome!

Spotted salamander egg mass

Spotted salamanders lay their egg masses when the wood frogs are about to hatch and are now the common egg masses found in the pools. A female may lay up to 250 eggs in a single mass and in those eggs young salamanders will remain for the next 4-6 weeks. Their development is easily observed through the translucent eggs as the enclosed embryos will change color, unfurl, and start to kick and twitch as hatching time approaches. When they hatch, the salamander larvae will have external gills for respiring in the water as they join any surviving wood frog larvae that have survived “the race” to this point.

The “race against time” really is the essence of what makes a pool a vernal pool! The frogs and salamanders lay these impressive amounts of eggs in pools that dry up every now and then. It could be every year, or every year or so—often enough to keep fish from living there. The amphibians must mate, lay eggs, and have their young hatch and develop into adults before the “well runs dry” so to speak. For wood frogs it’s two months as larvae—which has them leaving the pools in late June. For spotted salamanders it’s a month or two in this “phase” of life as well, which pushes their pool exodus to late July. The race continues for the next generation—a time to hope that they grow up fast.

My son Leif and I recently checked on pools near the Tenants Harbor marsh and over at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust Bamford Preserve on Long Cove, and we were not disappointed! For the visit to Bamford we invited some friends who live nearby—Andy, Drew, and Reid—to join in the exploration. Some things are just better when shared! Anyway, we found over 50 spotted salamander egg masses at Bamford and everyone seemed mesmerized by the jelly-like traits that the masses seem to have when in hand (or maybe it’s more jam-like traits). The masses are built to be out of the water for extended dry periods, and their congealedness is used to trap water within the mass itself. Gentle handling appears to have negligible impact on the masses. All in all there we found 100 spotted salamander masses in the four pools we surveyed in the Long Cove area that morning, which means at least 200 spotted salamanders are living in the area—get to know your neighbors!

Wood frog eggs ready to hatch

We were only to find one wood frog egg mass however, where we had found 18 last year. When the frogs were “laying down the (egg) masses” in early April the pool’s water levels appeared to be much lower than the past few Aprils. There are undoubtedly many factors that influence how many masses are laid by either species and water level at time of breeding seems to be one of them. The good news is that the one mass was hatching!

The days were good, the vernal pools were great and the company even better. It’s not too late to grab a friend (gently) and count the salamander egg masses at a pool near you. Some things are just better when shared! Enjoy!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

May 12 is annual St. George roadside clean-up

It’s that time again—the snow has melted, revealing lots of litter accumulated through the winter on the town’s roads. To clean up the debris, this year’s Roadside Clean-Up will be held on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

The event will start at 7:30 am at the Town Office. Volunteers can pick up heavy-duty bags for trash, plastic buckets for recycling, and sign up for a segment of road to be cleaned. There will be maps of the town on which you can sign up for a portion of a roadway.

New this year will be a list of “problem areas”—orphaned segments of roads that don’t seem to ever be cleaned or those that need extra TLC. The Solid Waste & Recycling Committee encourages volunteers to consider taking on a segment or a whole road on this list. If you would like to sign up for your favorite thoroughfare early, the list of these roads in addition to the map of all available sites will be posted in the all-purpose room of the Town Office beginning Monday, May 7.

As a send-off to the volunteers, a pancake breakfast is offered, beginning at 7:30 am, sponsored by the St. George Days Committee as a fundraiser for the activities offered during the July celebration.

As an added incentive, volunteers can sign up, on a first-come, first-served, basis to receive free tickets generously donated by the Monhegan Boat Line.

The committee encourages volunteers to separate all material that appears to be recyclable and place it in the buckets. The trash and recyclables can be taken directly to the Transfer Station or left by the side of the road. Members of the committee will be available to help with the drop-off at the Transfer Station and also will pick up any waste and recycling left on the side of the road.

If you can’t participate on the 12th, please clean up in front of your own home or business on another day. We welcome all efforts to keep our roads litter-free. Together, let’s keep St. George beautiful!

—Wendy Carr, St. George Solid Waste & Recycling Committee

Connie Chandler-Ward

Tenants Harbor resident Connie Chandler-Ward died Monday, April 2 after an automobile accident in Warren. She was ordained an Episcopal priest the first month after the Episcopal Church allowed the ordination of women in 1977. After a tenure as associate rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Va., she was appointed Chaplain of Wellesley College in 1980 and served in that position for 10 years. In 1990 she left Wellesley and came to Tenants Harbor where she and two other priests, Rosanna Kazanjian and Judith Carpenter, founded the Greenfire Retreat House on the Wallston Road. Over the years that core community expanded to include a number of other Episcopal priests and lay women.

A key element of the Greenfire ministry was, according to Carpenter, its commitment to doing deep, inner work in the context of circles of women. In addition to offering hospitality for women on retreat and a variety of workshops, weekly meditation circles for local women followed by pot-luck suppers were the heartbeat of the enterprise. In addition, Chandler-Ward had the idea of also offering something called “Work Visions,” in which three Greenfire community members would meet with a woman for three session of two hours each, listening closely to her work-life questions and struggles and seeking to offer back to her what they were each hearing so that, Carpenter says, “She could more clearly and deeply hear herself. In their feedback, women told us that, although they had initially been quite intimidated by the thought of meeting with two or three of us, it felt natural almost immediately. We realized that this was simply what women have done for one another from time immemorial: We gather in a circle and offer one another her own turn, her own time to be heard.”

When Greenfire closed in 2007 Chandler-Ward and her partner Suzanne Chambliss Neil moved to a residence on School Street to be near Chandler-Ward’s longtime friend and fellow Greenfire community member Adelaide Winstead. Chandler-Ward, who had a lifelong passion for choral music, sang with the Down East Singers and with Solace, an a cappella choir who sing almost exclusively to those who are dying. —JW

Development plan for Port Clyde Landing up for vote on May 14

By Dave Schmanska

On May 14, 2018 residents of St. George will be asked to vote on a $2.64 million rehabilitation and development project at the former St. George Marine property at 10 Cold Storage Road, in Port Clyde. The first phase of the project was completed in 2015 when the town purchased the property which adjoins the existing town landing. The second phase has been to develop a construction plan to repair, improve and expand the property into a facility that has adequate infrastructure to adapt and support a wide range of future commercial and recreational activities. The final phase will begin the gradual development of a plan to use the new facility once the voters approve a construction plan.

The planning process has been led by the Harbor Committee chaired by Dan Morris of Port Clyde. “During the purchase process we heard loud and clear that residents wanted to maintain and enhance access to a working waterfront,” Morris says. “That message resonates with the Harbor Committee and is an important part of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. It was the key guiding principle to our work”.

The process, which took more than a year, was assisted by planning consultants from the Musson Group and engineers from GF Johnston and Associates. The essence of the plan is to create a single waterfront facility by connecting the existing town landing to the new property. This would be accomplished by filling in two areas with stone and would nearly double the usable wharf surface by adding 9,400 square feet. It would also increase dock frontage by over 150 feet. The plan has the potential for increased floats for docking, a second improved launch ramp, some additional parking and basic amenities such as shoreside benches and walkways.

“There are site considerations for certain”, explains Noel Musson of the Musson Group. “Our charge from the committee was to help develop a plan that wasn’t simply a fix, but rather a long-term repair and expansion of the property to create as much flexibility as possible for the town. We assessed the issues that led to the failed southwest corner, conducted studies of soil on the sea floor, and estimated depth to ledge in the area. Our engineers then developed an estimate of the construction cost.”

Morris adds, “This solution has a life-span of 75 years or more and it will allow the Town to have control of a waterfront access point at a time when access is shrinking locally and statewide. The Committee feels that this approach is a better value for the Town’s dollars versus a more costly option involving many cycles of continuous repair and improvement”.

The project has the support of the Harbor Committee, Select Board and Budget Committee. The proposed financing method is to obtain a 20-year bond. Any grant options that could offset cost in the future will be evaluated. The property tax impact to the average homeowner would be approximately $60 per year, or $1,200 over the twenty-year period. The vote by secret ballot will occur on May 14 at the Town Office. Concerns about traffic congestion, safety of users, and the final use plan for the facility were raised at recent public meetings. The Select Board has committed to continued work on these issues.

My feeling is that this project is about preservation of waterfront access, and the creation of potential options for the town and those who use the sea to earn a living. The face of the working waterfront has changed and will continue to change over time. We don’t know if the future will bring new types of aquaculture, additional harvesting of rock weed, a rebound in ground fishing or something we haven’t thought of yet. What we do know, is that as that face changes, this property will be designed to meet those needs.

In conjunction with the Select Board, The Harbor Committee will continue to work with The Musson Group and GF Johnston and Associates to refine the plan, explore grant opportunities, and address some of the concerns raised at the public meetings.

“For the first time a tractor trailer delivering to Town will be able to turn around in Port Clyde instead of backing down main street”, says Morris. “Improvements like this will not completely solve the midsummer congestion issue, but they will go a long way toward bettering it. The committee believes that this plan meets our goal of positioning the town to adapt to the future, and it takes advantage of a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity.”

Additional information about the project can be found on the Town’s website ( or by stopping at the Town Office.

(Schmanska is St. George’s Harbormaster.)