Category Archives: Volume 7

‘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 www.brootphoto.com. 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

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

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.)

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

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 julie@stgeorgedragon.com, or to Julie, St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860.

PHOTO: Anne Cox

Jackie Metivier: A rich St. George life that began with a summer job

Jackie Metivier (l) and Ann Goldsmith, friends since working at Blueberry Cove Camp together in the early 1950s

by Steve Cartwright

Jacqueline Metivier, known to her friends and neighbors as Jackie, has lived in the former Martinsville Post Office overlooking Mosquito Harbor for more than half a century. Now retired from a career in education, she listens to jazz and enjoys a lively game of Scrabble. She loves her flower gardens and enjoys the constantly changing weather she sees out her windows each day.

Jackie first came to St. George in 1951, when she took a summer job at Blueberry Cove Camp. She was then a student at Plymouth Teachers College in New Hampshire, her home state. The camp, founded by Bess and Henry Haskell, had then been in operation for just three years, believed to be the first interracial summer camp in Maine. Jackie said she was especially touched when Bessie baked her a cake for her 21st birthday that year. “I swear, that was my first birthday cake,” Jackie said, a reference to a childhood in an unstable family.

Ann Goldsmith, former owner-director of Blueberry Cove, was a fellow counselor with Jackie during those early years at the camp. She recalls that Jackie “was an experienced counselor in charge of the swimming program (yes, we went swimming everyday in the frigid water), a bit tough on the kids though always fair. Nobody, adults or children, messed with Jackie, and we all learned a lot from her example. She had a knack for bringing out the best in kids.”

Lionel “Hap” Metivier had the post of head counselor at Blueberry Cove and soon became Jackie’s boyfriend. Their courtship lasted two years, “because we couldn’t afford to get married,” Jackie says. For their honeymoon, they stayed at “Lee Shore,” the farmhouse owned by the Haskells. It’s the same house where I spent childhood summers.

Jackie’s Blueberry Cove experience reinforced her interest in teaching, leading her to apply for a job teaching at St.George High School, which stood where the town office is located today. She recalls that when she asked the local superintendent about the job, he said, “When can you start?”

At the old wooden high school Jackie taught four English classes as well as civics. “I enjoyed teaching,” she says. “And I loved politics. There’s too much emphasis now on math and science, and not enough emphasis on participating in your government. How do we expect them to vote intelligently?”

In those days, high school was about as far as most kids went, Jackie notes. “They [the boys] all wanted to go fishing. The girls married the boys.”

Jackie also remembers my father, also a teacher, coming to talk to her class about his post-war work in India bringing medicine to villages. One pupil, Jimmy Skoglund, she recalls with amusement, wondered why Indian people didn’t speak English. “It’s so much easier,” Jackie remembers Jimmy saying.

While Jackie taught at the St. George High School in the mid-1950s, Hap worked as teaching principal at Rockport elementary school. In those years the couple lived upstairs at the first Jackson Memorial Library on Main Street in Tenants Harbor, and managed the library during the hours it was open.

Jackie recalls a town meeting on establishing the St.George Elementary School, which meant closing Clark Island’s one-room schoolhouse. When someone in the crowd said a teacher could be found for the old school, she describes standing up and saying, “I just graduated from a teachers college and I know a lot of young teachers, and none of them would want to teach at a school where you have to use the back-house!” The crowd’s reaction pleased her. “Everyone stomped and clapped. The vote carried.”

During her time at the high school Jackie took a second job as a waitress at the old Thorndike Hotel in Rockland, where male patrons would touch her in unwanted ways and leave big tips. At one point she and Hap went to Germany. During their time there Jackie bought a bikini. She smiles at the memory and says she believes she may have been the first woman in St.George to wear one.

The couple went on a Fulbright scholarship to Japan in 1956-57, teaching English as a second language in Yamagata. When they returned to the states they attended the University of Michigan, where Jackie earned a master’s degree in library science, and Hap worked on his doctorate in linguistics. She tried teaching school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, and recalled that when she reported a child she thought was being abused at home, officials told her to keep quiet.

In 1960, Hap and Jackie bought the old post office on the shore of Mosquito Harbor for $8,000. People told them they paid too much for the two-story building, which after much remodeling became their home. Now, she says two years’ worth of property taxes comes to about as much as the purchase price.

Also in 1960, the teaching couple moved from Michigan to new jobs in Brockport N.Y. There, they adopted twins, a boy and a girl, Michael and Michelle. Michael now has a home in St.George and Michelle lives in Rockland. Although they remain married, Hap and Jackie have lived apart since 1985. Jackie returned to Maine with the children that year and found her niche as librarian at Hall-Dale High School in Hallowell, living in Farmingdale and spending summers in Martinsville. She happily returned to Martinsville full time when she retired in 1994.

Jackie was a close friend to my mother, Sally, who lived in Tenants Harbor for years. The two of them sailed together in Sally’s 17-foot sloop, “Sea Chip.” They figured out that to get along, Sally did the sailing, Jackie did the cooking.

For many years, Jackie shared her home with a second cousin, Ramona. Now she shares it with Daisy Mae. “A dog is the only unconditional love you can find,” she observes. She’s given up driving and is grateful for the Neighbor to Neighbor program that provides rides for free. She recently had a heart attack but says it hasn’t slowed her down or dampened her spirits.

Her life, she said, has been “quite a challenge. We lived through it, and got stronger.” A spunky person since childhood, Jackie still likes a good laugh. As I stood up to go after our interview, she quipped, “So, can I expect to see this story in Cosmopolitan?”

(Steve Cartwright is retired from print journalism. He continues to write and take pictures. He lives in Tenants Harbor with cats Tang and Seasmoke. He directs the annual Blueberry Cove Camp half marathon and serves on the camp’s board of directors.)

PHOTO: Steve Cartwright

No barreds held

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Barred Owl

Catching a view of an owl is always special. Even if the Great Horned Owl you are mesmerized by is flying away with your cat, chicken or small child (never happened) there is still a burst of “man, that was so cool” that runs through your veins. That’s how cool it is to see one.

In the avian class—“birdies” if you will—owls have the order strigiformes all to their own. The order can be split into two owl families—tytonidae (17 species of “Barn Owls”) and the strigidae (164-ish species of “typical owls”) for a total of 181 owl species worldwide. In North America we have 19 species of owls that breed, representing 11 different genera and both families. Eleven species of owls live in Maine or visit here a portion of the year. With owls being so widespread, it’s no surprise that the St. George peninsula is a destination, a hunting and wintering ground, and a rest area to many owls each year.

For much of winter, the grassy ledges off Marshall Point are good places to scan for Snowy and Short-eared Owls (and Rough-legged Hawks) hunting by perch or on the wing. In some irruptive years Snowies have been so numerous on the peninsula that owls have ended up in St. George yards, perching on rooftops and bird feeders. Small numbers of Saw-whet Owls overwinter in the woods and even smaller numbers (and not necessarily yearly) of Long-eared Owls hunt fields and field edges from perches. With their mostly nocturnal ways, these two species are tricky to observe while a species like the Great Horned Owl can turn up just about anywhere. “Rarity” species like Great Grey, Northern Hawk, and Boreal Owls are not out of the question either, just pretty unlikely to see. And then you have Barred Owls, which might be the most mysterious owl of the bunch.

Based on observations from others, Barred Owls appear to be the most numerous owl seen and heard in St. George. The chatty, year-round residents can be heard hooting their “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call in local woods just about any night of the year, and sometimes during daylight hours as well. They are comfortable hunting when the sun is up and for the most part don’t appear to mind the presence of humans.

Owl pellet

Barred owls also leave sign of their presence in the form of pellets. Most birds eat their food whole, and many species will regurgitate the undigestible parts of what they ingest in the form of “pellets” rather than have them pass through their digestive system. Owl pellets are loaded with bones and fur, and tend to stay intact for a long period of time (months even!). Pellets are a wonderful clue to an owl’s presence and diet, and they are as much fun to take apart as they are to find! Look for “good” perches in areas where you have heard or seen Barred Owls and you are likely to find these balls of fur and bones. In a yard where we previously lived one tree had 12 Barred Owl pellets underneath it! I checked under the tree daily and for a stretch of time I would recognize newly dropped pellets and yet, I never did see the owl.

For all the pellets, all the chatter, and all the habits that can have them active before dark, Barred Owls are hard to observe and there remain a lot of “unknowns” about their behavior. I think their use of tree cavities for nesting and (possibly) resting plays a role in this. Other owls are easy, Barreds tend to confuse. They are literally their own breed of owl.

Over the last month or so I have heard of more than eight reports of Barreds turning up in yards around the peninsula­—with more observations undoubtedly occurring. Are young dispersing? Is it a migration from the north or local owls hitting up rodent-loaded areas? Are Barreds more likely to hunt in the day when it gets cold? Unanswered questions that lead to more unanswered questions. So it goes.

And while we always feel lucky to have crossed paths with owls, there is the understanding that at least a chunk of the time when we see owls it is because they are stressed or hurting. A Long-eared Owl hunting in the afternoon is hungry. Hungry enough to break its “strictly nocturnal” label because survival is on the line. Not saying we should release mice in our yards to provide meals for owls, but if you do find a compromised owl the folks at Avian Haven in Freedom ((207) 382–6761) do a great job “fixing them up and getting them back out there”.

See you out there!

PHOTOS: Top, John Meyer, below, Kirk Gentalen

What is a makerspace?

by Cecil White

Seventh graders Cecil White and Chase Jansen (with Leilani Myers photobombing) created Star Wars fighters in the makerspace at St. George School.

A makerspace is a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing, innovation, or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge. St. George School has had a makerspace for about three years, thanks to the generous support of the Perloff Family Foundation, Wick Skinner and the Maine Community Foundation, as well as the enthusiastic support of school staff, students and community.

Mr. Meinersmann is in charge of the makerspace at St. George School. He helps kids program machines and build things. The most challenging and fun part of his job is “to prove that kids can do anything and helping them prove that to themselves.”

Before the makerspace became what it is today, Mr. Meinersmann’s title was the Technology Director. In that role, he helped make sure the phone system was reliable and made sure the kids had working laptops for school work. He still has that title and those responsibilities, plus now he gets to use a whole bunch of fun equipment in the makerspace.

There are many tools in the makerspace, such as seven 3D printers, a CNC machine (CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control), laser cutter, soldering station, plus some older tools from when St. George School had “shop” or Industrial Arts and “home ec” or Family and Consumer Science.

Ms. Palmer also works in the makerspace, “and beyond, to bring a ‘maker’ mindset into classrooms.” She solves problems and creates with the younger students, focusing on hands-on projects. Fifth graders have programmed with Spheros. Fourth graders have made ornaments using the laser cutter, and have built and wired model houses using the 3D printer. Second graders have learned to code and solve engineering problems. Not all the projects depend on the new machines. First graders have made syrup by tapping trees and experimented with light and sound. Kindergarteners have made pumpkin pie using garden squash and played with forces and motion.

Ms. Palmer and Mr. Meinersmann both lead two after-school programs: the Lego Robotics Team and the 3-5 grade STEAM club. Lego Robotics is a group of kids who collaborate to solve world-wide problems and they use Legos and programming to help solve them. The STEAM club focuses on technology skills, especially programming.

Bryson Mattox (grade 7) working on his salinity device

There are lots of cool things you can do in the makerspace. Up in the makerspace people like me can learn how to program, build things like robot cars, or learn how to design things on CAD (Computer Assisted Design) websites. Some ideas of things you can build are chess pieces, board games, statues and a whole lot more. For example, at Christmas I made some personalized ornaments for my family. Recently, some classmates in seventh grade made a 3D laser-cut scene from a book they read, and others are designing a Monopoly-type game board with places from the setting of their book. A classmate, Bryson Mattox, is constructing a device to measure the salinity in the marsh as part of the alewife restoration project in Mrs. England’s science class.

In the future, we hope that all community members could have access to our space and the training to use the equipment so everyone can design and make their inventions.

As a seventh grader, I am very grateful that we have this space. I like the makerspace because it gives me time to myself to do something else other than traditional school work. It’s a relaxing environment where I can be creative and proud of my work.

PHOTOS: Paul Meinersmann

Kitchen garden talk: Where do you get your seeds?

In France they call them “potages” and in Scotland “kaleyards,” but here in St. George we know them as kitchen or vegetable gardens. In any event, eating out of one’s garden is not a new thing on this peninsula, where residents have been growing their own food since settlement, mostly out of a need for self sufficiency and thriftiness. These days the satisfaction that comes with eating out of a home garden not only continues that tradition, but also has a lot to do with gastronomic pleasure—nothing tastes so good as a freshly picked tomato or head of lettuce—not to mention the satisfaction that comes from doing right by our families (giving them whole food), and our planet (walking out to harvest from the garden doesn’t leave much of a carbon footprint).

Because we think St. George’s large gardening community has a lot to share about growing vegetables, fruits and herbs, with this issue of the St. George Dragon we are launching “Kitchen garden talk,” a regular feature that we expect to be both useful and enlightening. The“talk” we are after is of the sort that regularly takes place as fellow gardeners stroll among one another’s vegetable beds. The topics will be familiar, but no less engaging for that—ranging from favorite crops and plant varieties to how best to meet the challenges presented by weather and pests. In each issue we’ll pose a question aimed at eliciting “garden talk” from our gardener readers. In the following issue we’ll publish as many of the responses we get as space makes possible.
Since January is when kitchen gardeners begin thinking about what they’d like their gardens to produce during the coming growing season, we have primed the pump by asking some of the kitchen gardeners we know about where they go to get their seeds and why. Here are their answers:

Bethany Yovino, Wallston: Typically I buy most of my seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine—the locavore in me likes to shop local, plus the quality of their products is always top notch and they have such an extensive selection of both organic and nonorganic. I love nothing better than perusing the Johnny’s catalogue on a cold winter day in front of my wood stove! I also support FEDCO Seeds in Clinton, Maine [with a mailing address in Waterville] as they have a good selection of seeds that work well in our colder climate. Renee’s Garden is also a company I like. I was initially attracted to their attractive packaging but have since learned they are a company that donates seeds to a wide variety of organizations and educational programs worldwide. You have to love a company with a social conscience. Their products are all free of GMOs.

Jane Bracy, Hart’s Neck: The gardeners at Blueberry Cove Camp are getting together this month to plan out the garden for the upcoming season. At this meeting we’ll talk about what worked last season and what didn’t. We get input from the cook and assistant cook to see what they need and would like.
We buy organic seeds, mostly from Johnny’s and FEDCO. We are also going to try some seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont this year. We start some of our seeds in the main building at the camp as there are great windows facing west. We also have a very little greenhouse that we can put things in as it warms up a little. We get potatoes from the Maine Potato Lady.

Susan Carey, Tenants Harbor: My two main sources for seeds are FEDCO and Johnny’s. They are both Maine seed providers and understand the nature of our climate. Their catalogues are also fun to read, particularly FEDCO, whose honesty extends to listing one heritage tomato as looking “like roadkill.” After one use, I toss all onion and parsley seeds since their germination drops dramatically after year one but store all others in the freezer and (using a germination chart) continue to use them until their period of viability dwindles.

I currently have a heated glass greenhouse off the kitchen, but before the greenhouse, I started seeds in the attic under shop lights fitted with one standard bulb and one greenhouse bulb. I banged my head on the slanted eaves, occasionally lost seedlings to predatory mice and loved the plants I grew. Then as now I started allium seeds at the end of February, setting the pots on bottom-heating pads until the weather warmed. By the end of March the greenhouse is crowded with seedlings and I harden my heart to my least favorite chore—thinning the leeks.

Patty Cole, Martinsville: Seed selection is very much a process for me. The process takes place early January in my bathtub each year, candles lit. I thumb through every catalogue (this may take a few nights). I end up choosing Johnny’s Selected Seeds for most of my seeds. Very excellent customer service and I like that they are employee-owned. But I love ALL of the catalogs … winter dreaming!

Next issue: Our question for the February 14, 2019 issue has to do with favorite varieties of vegetables—pick any vegetable(s) you plan to grow and tell us what your favorite variety is and why. Send your response by February 4 to julie@stgeorgedragon.com or drop a note at Julie Wortman, St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860. Please supply your name or initials and where you live in St. George (i.e., Martinsville, Port Clyde, Clark Island, etc.). Thanks!

Reminder

A reminder to all St. George households, especially those of federal employees impacted by the government shutdown, that the St. George Community Cupboard, located at 47 Main Street in Tenants Harbor, offers support to all St. George residents. Stop by any Thursday from 2 pm to 7 pm to learn more about local assistance or give us a call at 207-372-2193.