Category Archives: December 19

Thanks for a very good run

Volume 1, Issue 1

by Julie A. Wortman, Editor

We here at The Dragon have reached a bittersweet moment. This edition marks the last of what has been a successful seven-year run of issues aimed at promoting “the good things about St. George: its natural beauty, its heritage, its hardworking and creative people, its cultural and recreational life, its community organizations, its attractive and often unique enterprises.” We’ve enjoyed pursuing that mission and have been grateful for the advertisers who have made it possible for us to do so. But the time has come to move on to other pursuits.

The founding idea behind The Dragon was a simple one: to create a “Free Press for St. George” that would provide local business owners (such as myself, for one) with a publication in which to advertise that people living in or visiting St. George would find interesting to read.

At first, graphic designer and advertising/business manager Betsy Welch and I characterized The Dragon as providing “FREE Business and Recreation News for the St. George Peninsula.” At the time we were probably influenced by the fact that the St. George Business Alliance was getting established and thought focusing on St. George’s businesses and recreational offerings made sense for a publication dependent on local advertising. But by the spring of 2017, a chance remark by then harbormaster Dave Schmanska made us realize that the content we had been developing was something broader and more interesting than that. “A journal of community life,” seemed a more fitting description of what a reader would find in The Dragon’s pages.

The good things about this town’s community life is something we will miss celebrating. But we hope that in our seven years of publication we have managed to give visibility to the surprisingly diverse and rich range of people and enterprises to be found in this rambling collection of villages and crossroads. We have sought not only the color but also the texture of this town, not only its idiosyncratic qualities but also its dependable constants.

We highlighted an example of the latter in the cover story of our initial issue on May 9, 2013, “Newly renovated Laura B soon back at work,” which gave tribute not only to the Laura B’s historical importance but also to the skills of local boat builders Jim Parker, Jeff Delaney, Jeff Sparks, Nick Thompson and Andy Barstow and to the persistent commitment of the Barstow family to making Monhegan Boat Line one of the hallmarks of the town’s marine landscape and economy. In terms of that economy, the shift to aquaculture that traditional fishermen have been exploring seemed an especially important sign of resilience on which to report. In this regard, longtime lobsterman and tuna fisherman John Cotton spoke with us in 2017 of his and wife Toni Small’s hope that raising oysters near Deep Cove could prove to be a new and sustainable marine venture—two years later Cotton celebrated the first signs that that hope was turning into a reality (“Ready to go full-time—with Ice House Oysters”). Likewise, in our April 12, 2018 issue, an interview with Merritt Carey and Peter Miller laid out the positive potential of “farming” scallops as a way to diversify local fisheries while keeping profits ‘at the shore.’”

Training hard to overcome the problem of water supply

Another dependable constant that The Dragon touched into frequently was our town’s diligent efforts to be prepared for emergencies—both immediate and long-term. What comes to mind first, of course, is the work of our first responders. Headlines speak for themselves: “Ambulance Association receives Service of the Year award” (Nov. 21, 2013), “Training hard to overcome the problem of water supply” (Oct. 23, 2014), “‘Burn building’ to be valuable asset for St. George firefighters” (June 4, 2015), “Planning for taking shelter in a storm” (December 21, 2017), “Taking a first step to understand—and plan for—the impact of sea level rise in St. George” (Nov. 7, 2019).

But another aspect of emergency preparedness has been the work of the town’s Conservation Commission to protect this peninsula’s celebrated and cherished environmental quality from the threats of overdevelopment, loss of native habitat and changing climate. A story about the late Les Hyde’s conservation work in our June 20, 2013 issue (“Hiking Frye Mountain to Port Clyde: Working to fulfill a dream”) articulated Hyde’s philosophy that creating a trail system for public use is the best way to ensure that safeguarding the town’s environmental quality remains a high priority. Since then a number of Dragon stories have continued to highlight this aspect of the Commission’s good work.

Kathy Barker, Herring Gut Executive Director

Finally, St. George’s consistent commitment to its youth was another theme lifted up over and over in these pages—“Mike Felton: Bringing focus and creativity to St. George’s new community school,” “Launching a new school fund aimed at ‘Gee, we wish we could do that!’”,Blueberry Cove Camp: a vital philosophy in action,” “Herring Gut: Where business stimulates learning,” “An award-winning—and lifelong—focus on kids’ well-being [at Ponderosa Playland].”

But during these past seven years we have also believed that these “big” topics—the texture, if you will, of St. George—needed to be balanced by the color provided by the town’s so-called ordinary citizens through stories about their passions, creativity, and down-to-earth practicality. Contrasting with the Laura B story in that May 9, 2013 inaugural issue, for example, was a piece about the seldom-seen “bagel lady,” Jan McCoy, quietly working at providing her loyal customers with artisan bagels from her little certified Bagel Shack kitchen on the River Road. Since then we’ve written about people making

John Shea and his Nantucket baskets

things from high-quality cabinetry, to forged iron work, Nantucket baskets and intricately knitted mittens; about people with a passion for helping others, for researching Maine’s medical history, or for collecting stamps. And we’ve written about what’s involved in doing the work that people go about doing without fanfare, such as snowplowing, cleaning, delivering the mail, construction and caretaking.

Lastly, for me, personally, one of the most satisfying aspects of producing The Dragon in recent years has been the incremental addition of a wider range of writers contributing to this publication, each in their own way expanding our ability to probe the depths of St. George’s community life. In the early years, Anne Cox delighted many readers with her short pieces on the gardening life. Then, after he retired as town manager, John Falla wrote columns that gave deeper insight into our town’s history. Likewise, Katherine Cartwright gave increased visibility to the work and motivations of some of the artists living among us. Sonja Schmanska funneled into our pages the voices of the youth attending the St. George School and Kirk Gentalen provided a naturalist’s perspective on the abundance and curious aspects of the life to be found in our woods and marshes, along our roadsides and flying overhead. More recently, at our pleading, Jan Getgood shared her extensive knowledge of native plants in a feature she called “Native plant corner.” And we can’t fail to mention the fun that ensued when we took up Sarah Holbrook’s suggestion that we try a photographic feature called “Where in St. George?” and Susan Bate’s idea of highlighting local vanity plates.

We can’t thank these contributors enough for making The Dragon a better read than we could have managed alone. And we are very, very grateful to the people of St. George for their support of this publication. We give our sincerest thanks for the very good run we’ve had.

A note from Betsy Welch, Advertising and Business Manager

The St. George Dragon would like to thank the over 100 different businesses and individuals who have advertised in our pages over the past seven years of publication. Without advertisements to cover the costs of printing and production we wouldn’t have been able to stay in print and remain online. We encourage our readers to continue to patronize these businesses and organizations.

We would particularly like to thank those loyal sponsors who have been with us for all seven years:

Blue Tulip
Camden Printing
Craignair Inn
East Wind Inn
Green Bean Catering
Hedgerow
HomeShare
J.D. Miller Construction
Mill Pond House
Monhegan Boat Line
Ocean View Grange
Port Clyde Art Gallery
Ron Hall Enterprises
Sea Star Shop
St. George Business Alliance
Stonefish
Tenants Harbor Boat Yard

Several of these folks have even appeared in every single one of our 143 issues!

We would also like to acknowledge artist Geoff Bladon who has contributed many drawings; photographers Don Moore, Chris Stump, Steve Cartwright, Rick Betancourt and Anne Cox for iconic images of St. George. And lastly, many thanks to St. George residents Katy and George Tripp of Camden Printing for getting The Dragon on press on time, despite occasional missed deadlines on our end. Thank you one and all!

Please note that the online version of The Dragon will remain online indefinitely. Use the “Search the Archives” tool near the top of the page to search for topics.

Happy 200th birthday State of Maine!

Andrew Robinson Homestead

During the year 2020 you’ll be seeing numerous festivities around the state celebrating the 200th anniversary of Maine becoming a state. Visit www.maine200.org to learn more about all the events that are planned. Here in St. George there will be a public supper on Saturday, March 14, 2020, at the Fire Station Meeting Room, followed by a program put on by the St. George Historical Society on what the town of St. George was like 200 years ago. The planning for the event is currently in the works and more information will be available sometime in January. Save the date—March 14th!

In addition to the special celebration in March, the St. George Historical Society will be having its monthly programs from April through October. The Society holds its annual planning meeting in January, so if you have any ideas on what would be a fun program or walking tour, send an email to stgeorgemainehistory@gmail.com or stop by the Society’s new headquarters at the Old Library Museum at 38 Main Street in Tenants Harbor and share your thoughts.

The Old Library Museum will be opening on a regular basis starting on January 1st. At the beginning we will be open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm, and also by appointment. For the summer season the plan is to be open more hours. You can inquire about our hours or schedule an appointment by calling 207-372-2231 or send a request via the email noted earlier. Our soft opening on November 30th was well attended and there was a lot of interest. Our reference library on local, regional and Maine history and genealogy, plus Maine and New England maritime history, is currently in excess of 300 titles, with more being donated every day. We also have a small—but growing—section on Maine Indians.

Also planned during the State’s celebration in 2020 are events at our other locations in St. George—the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum in Port Clyde (www.marshallpoint.org), the Schoolhouse Museum in Tenants Harbor next to the Town Office, and the Andrew Robinson Homestead in Wiley’s Corner. The Schoolhouse Museum will be open from May to October with regular hours (or by appointment) and there will be an open house at the Andrew Robinson Homestead sometime in August around the birthday of Andrew Robinson—August 15th.

Keep your eyes open for more news of the monthly events and other items planned for 2020. The St. George Historical Society has a website (www.stgeorgehistory.com) where you can sign up for email announcements and notices of upcoming events. The Historical Society is also planning to change its newsletter from quarterly to monthly starting in January 2020. Remember to go to our website to sign up for this monthly news. If you have problems signing up, then email us or call or drop by the Old Library Museum to learn what’s new about the history of St. George.

—John Falla (Falla is president of the St. George Historical Society.)

PHOTO: John Falla

Timing

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Tenants Harbor marsh sunset

Life feels a little better with a pinch of “good timing.” Be it in relationships, careers, or maybe with the tire that kindly waited until we got to the gas station before it went completely flat. Timing can make a difference just about everywhere. If you are ever looking for a silver lining, a dose of “good timing” might provide just enough shine to make a situation less painful and sometimes maybe even better. Good timing is always accepted.

Timing can be very important in nature observation. There can be a preciseness of timing as is the case with tide-pooling. Timing here can be the difference between seeing nudibranchs or periwinkles. Timing in nature observation can also have a certain apparent randomness, as in the numerous times a bird or mammal has appeared minutes after a person leaves. We all have undoubtedly come within hours of making great sightings but simply weren’t there when it happened. Timing.

Animal “sign” can give us a taste (not literally) of what’s happening in woods without actually crossing paths with a critter, and that is nice. Sign tells us that life was not only going on before we got here, but that it will most likely continue after we leave. Makes the phrase “you just missed it” seem funny. I mean, when are we not missing something? It’s a constant and a given. And if we are always missing things then we should, in theory and potentially, always be able to see things. This is also nice. If this is the case then an increase in the amount of time we spend looking should increase the chances of “good timing.”

Tracking animals in snow reminds me of how important timing is. In a perfect world, a tracker gets on the trails before the sun hits a track. In a matter of hours or less, the sun—with its harmful, warming ways—can melt away most details from the track or trail you were hoping to inspect. The sky would be overcast in a perfect, tracking world. Less heat and better for winter photos anyway (no shadows!).

Otter icebreaker

Tracking after the December 3rd snow storm was an example of such timing. I was able to get out and around the marsh early-ish the next day and the tracks and trails were crisp. A pair of river otter, I am assuming the two we call “Moe and Curly,” had belly-slid down the beaver dam, the same spot where they have slid the previous two winters. Then, as I made my way around the marsh I came to a second spot where the otters had come from the ice. Here the otters had dug through the snow and marked a couple of small leaf piles. They had left the water separately, but returned using the same slide, likely one not too far behind the other. Instead of going under the ice, the two created an “icebreaker” path along a 10-foot stretch of shoreline. Were they trying to get on the ice and it wasn’t able to support them? Or is breaking ice as fun for them as it is for humans? Either way, it was great to see sign of the two. The timing couldn’t have been better to track them.

I had to get back for responsibilities (work) and as I cut through the woods I came upon a fisher trail. The tracks were beautiful, the trail was fresh and since it was kind of going in the same direction as I was headed I decided to follow it for a bit. The trail curled around a couple of yards in the neighborhood, inspecting downed trees and squirrel scenes and before long I really had to get back.

A couple of days later I had time to revisit the fisher trail again. There was still plenty of snow, but the two days of sun had turned the tracks into ovals of varying sizes, and trail patterns were indecipherable for the most part. Picking out the fisher tracks was a bit of work, and following its trail took a bunch more. It was a good time, but the timing was not as good as before. Seems obvious, but sometimes those are the best epiphanies.

Timing can also be important with nature writing. While there is no “good time” for The St. George Dragon to cease, I am grateful for having two years of good timing in posting the Nature Bummin’ columns here. The entire Nature Bummin’ staff wants to extend heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Julie and Betsy, for all their hard work in keeping The Dragon going. In other words, we are “bummed” in the more traditional sense of the word. And so…. HEARTFELT THANKS! & APPRECIATION!

And while The Dragon is stopping, “nature” itself will continue to chug along, hopefully and of course. And strolling right along it will be Nature Bummin’! Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) will continue its support for the column and has offered to post current (and past) posts on their website. It’s an offer too good to pass up—thanks MCHT!

With that, Nature Bummin’ is moving to a new home—mcht.org/story-tag/nature-bummin/. We’ll keep pumping out the column every two weeks (roughly) as with The Dragon. And who knows, if a new incarnation of The Dragon (or something similar) develops on the peninsula we’ll be ready to jump back on! The nature will be there, that is for sure!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen